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What is 3GP and 3G2 File Format & their Differences

The 3GP file format has been on the way to becoming obsolete these days. However, if you have been using mobile internet from its early days, you should be one among us who is aware of what 3GP file format is and how useful it had been. The format traces its origin to those days and was born out of the need for faster loading in the days of slower internet connectivity.

Even when the MP4 format has become one of the widely used formats in the new age, the 3GP and 3GPP2 file formats still holds value. One of the grossly misunderstood video file formats, we will take time off to understand the file format and its importance in the following paragraphs.

What Is 3GP File Format?

During the initial days of the mobile internet, downloading or watching videos was a huge concern. That was essentially the root cause for the development of the lighter version of the MP4 video file container and that was exactly how the 3GP format was born.

Specifically built for mobile phones in earlier days, the file format has a .3gp or .3g2 file extension. The file format was developed so that the file sizes can get smaller and do not occupy more space on your device. The 3GP File format was developed by Third Generation Partnership Project. The format is basically designed for phones that run on GSM technology.

What Is 3GPP2 File Format?

Well, 3GPP2 ( also known as 3G2 ) is yet another standard for video files, again developed with the same aim of reducing the size of your videos files so that they will not consume more space and are not demanding on the bandwidth.

The format shares most of its features with 3GP. In fact, we would treat the 3GP and 3GPP2 formats as cousins. 3GPP2 is also known as 3G2 and is developed under Third Generation Partnership project 2. That should explain the reason for the different nomenclature for each of these formats. The 3GPP2 format is quite similar to 3GP in most aspects with an exemption of the new file extension and a few features that are limited.

3GP & 3GP2 Format

Common Factors Between 3GP and 3GPP2

Well, both 3GP and 3GPP2 (most commonly known as 3G2) have born out of the issues being faced in watching and downloading videos on mobile phones. The 3GPP or 3rd Generation Partnership Project was formed as a result of the collaboration between telecommunication companies and different associations.

The 3GP (and 3G2) is the format that served as the best option for the problems faced by mobile phone users in viewing the multimedia video files on their device.

Video files need encoding, but the 3GP and 3G2 formats are not encoding formats as most of the users tend to confuse them too. They are only container files as is the MP4 format. Both 3GP and 3G2 files work as containers for the formatted video files. A container file will only decide the way in which the files inside it have been structured. The quality of the video file and its compression is decided by the actual codecs used in the files.

How Do 3GP and 3GPP2 Differ from Each Other?

Well, as we mentioned it before, the file formats work with similar functionality with a few minor differences. The major difference between the two would be

  • The 3GPP files are designed for use on GSM based phone. They have the file extension 3gp.
  • The 3GPP2 file format is designed for CDMA based devices. These files have a file extension 3g2.

The following comparison should provide a clear idea between the two formats in a clear and lucid manner.

  • The 3GP file format stores the video stream in MPEG-4 Part 2, H.263, or MPEG-4 Part 10 (AVC/H.264) formats. The 3GPP2 standard supports all these formats.
  • 3GP can stream the audio in AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AMR-WB+, AAC-LC, HE-AAC v1 or Enhanced aacPlus (HE-AAC v2) formats. 3GPP2 can handle all these streams as do the 3GP, but additionally – it also supports EVRC, EVRC-B, EVRC-WB, 13K (QCELP), SMV or VMR-WB audio streams as well.
  • The 3GPP2 standard supports 3GP Timed text, while 3GP file format does not support it.
  • 3GPP2 does not support ACC+ and AMR-WB+ audio streams.

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Devices Supporting 3GP and 3GPP2 Files

Now that you are aware that both 3GP and 3GPP2 have the same features and practically the same with just a few minor changes between them, you might have understood that they are supported on almost equivalent devices. The only difference would be that the 3GP format is designed for 3G UMTS (or GSM) devices, while 3GPP2 is meant for CDMA devices. In the following list of supported devices, we use the terms 3GP and 3GPP2 as being equivalent.

Some of the devices that support 3GP and 3G2 file formats can be summed up as

  • Almost all 3G enabled phones do support 3GP and 3G2 formats. The standard is also supported on a few 4G enabled devices as well.
  • Most of the media players support the 3GP formats. Windows Media Player, Apple Quick Time Player, VLC media player, Media Player Classic, K-Multimedia Player, Totem, RealPlayer, and MPlayer can be a few examples.
  • The audio imported from a CD into a PlayStation device is saved in the 3GP format.
  • Nintendo DSi offers support for the 3GP files saved on SD cards.

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Pros and Cons of a 3GP (or3GPP2) File Format

Now that we have delved deeper enough into what can a 3GP file is capable of and the due difference between the two formats, it may be a good option to look at the advantages and disadvantages that these file formats offer you.


  • The formats ensure that the file size of your videos is small enough. This can be a great option if you are using a device with low storage space. If you are someone who regularly saves and watches the videos on a smartphone, this can be a good option.
  • Uploading a 3GP video will consume lower bandwidth and work faster. This can be an advantage if you are regularly uploading your video files to social media sites.
  • If you are troubled with slower internet speeds, a 3GP video format can be faster enough both for streaming and download.


  • The video and audio are highly compressed so as to reduce the file size, and thus it may reduce the quality of your video as well.
  • The resolution and audio quality can suffer tremendously.

Concluding Thoughts

Well, that should be what we have with respect to 3GP and 3GPP2 file formats. Though they are on the verge of losing ground with the enhanced speeds of mobile internet and storage space on smartphones or even on laptops, they still hold value. In fact, a host of older videos are available in the 3GP format and they are a treasure to take care of.

Having said that, there are several converters available so that you can convert a 3GP video to an advanced MP4 format so that they will stay accessible. However, as things as of now, most of the player’s available for smartphones, laptops, and PCs do support the 3GP format and as such, it should not be a concern. However, if you still are not able to play a 3GP file for any reason, you may opt for a converter that can do the job effortlessly.

We assume that we have been able to address the doubts and concerns you have had with respect to the 3GP and 3GPP2 formats. Do share your inputs if any through the comment section here below.

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