There’s nothing more frustrating than downloading or transferring a video onto your Android phone, only to be greeted with “can’t open file” or “unsupported audio codec” when you try to play it. So how do you fix the unsupported video file error? Read on and we will guide you through the solution.

Before we get into the the details, it’s worth explaining why and how this problem occurs. It’s all about the codecs and containers.

What is a codec?

First things first, codec is actually the abbreviation of compressor-decompressor. The name actually says it all: it’s a method for encoding and decoding data, specifically for compressed data. Codecs take data (in this case video data) and either compress them so they can be sent or stored or decompress them so they can be viewed.

What is a container?

Usually a container is also referred to as a file format. It takes care of packaging, transport and presentation (while the codec prepares the file for these actions). Containers take care of synchronizing the audio and video. A container is part of the file that determines the file type. In simple terms – if you have an androidpit.mp4 file, MP4 is the container.

Why won’t my video play?

In most cases, the reason why you’re getting an error message when you try to play a video file on your Android device is because the codec of your media file is different than that of your video player, or the fact that your video player doesn’t support the (audio) codec. You might think that your media player arbitrarily decides to play and not play the same container type (aka file type), but a container can contain multiple types of codecs, and your phone might not support all of them.

How can I play “unsupported media files” on my smartphone?

As mentioned above, one of the most likely reasons you’re getting the “can’t open file”, “unsupported audio codec” or “unsupported video file error” is because your current media player doesn’t support the codec of your video file. The easiest solution is to switch from the default video player and download a new media player.

I highly recommend the fantastic VLC Player. It supports virtually every file format, can handle multiple audio tracks, subtitles, auto-rotation of the display and corrections to the aspect ratio. Volume and brightness can be controlled by gestures and there are widgets available too.