Apple details how it developed the iPhone X’s ‘Portrait Lighting’ feature

iPhone X Camera

While the iPhone today is capable of taking absolutely stunning and arguably best-in-class photos, that wasn’t always the case. Going back in time a bit, the original iPhone camera was nothing special. In fact, the original iPhone camera wasn’t even respectable relative to what other smartphone manufacturers were releasing at the time. Over time, though, Apple began to invest more in camera technologies and it wasn’t long before new iPhone models were routinely setting new standards of excellence for mobile photography.

In recent years, Apple has undeniably taken mobile photography to the next level, thanks in large part to the company’s control of both the iPhone hardware and software. Most recently, Apple released a camera feature it dubs Portrait Lighting. The feature itself takes advantage of the iPhone’s dual camera scheme and enables users to take photos designed to resemble professional shots that would ordinarily be taken in a studio environment.

Currently available on the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait Lighting in iOS 11 is truly remarkable. And speaking to the lengths Apple went to perfect it, the company earlier today released a new ad which details how the feature was brought into existence.

As detailed in the video below, Apple worked with global image makers and top photographers in order to get the lighting effects just right. What’s more, Apple implemented advanced machine learning concepts to help create “studio-quality portraits.”

Apple has always been a company known to sweat the small stuff, and the video above is just yet another example of the company’s unrivaled attention to detail.

Apple – BGR

Why Apple chose Face ID over Touch ID on the iPhone X

iPhone X Features

In the months leading up to the iPhone X unveiling this past September, there were a number of conflicting reports about the overall design of the device. While most everyone agreed that the physical home button was being kicked to the curb in favor of an edgeless display, it wasn’t entirely clear if Apple would replace it with an eye-authentication scheme (Face ID) or if it would embed a Touch ID sensor into the display itself.

When the iPhone X with Face ID was officially introduced, it didn’t take long for a new narrative to emerge, namely that Apple opted for Face ID very late into the development cycle simply because it couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate a fingerprint sensor into an OLED display at scale.

In reality, Apple’s decision to go all-in with Face ID was made well over a year before the iPhone X introduction. The reason, quite simply, is that Apple believed it to be a superior alternative to Touch ID on a number of fronts.

As John Gruber noted a few months back:

There were, of course, early attempts to embed a Touch ID sensor under the display as a Plan B. But Apple became convinced that Face ID was the way to go over a year ago. I heard this yesterday from multiple people at Apple, including engineers who’ve been working on the iPhone X project for a very long time. They stopped pursuing Touch ID under the display not because they couldn’t do it, but because they decided they didn’t need it.

Incidentally, Apple’s design decision with the iPhone X hasn’t stopped other handset makers from trying to develop devices with embedded fingerprint sensors. And while Face ID still has a few kinks to work out, I think it’s fair to say that Apple’s decision to go with Face ID over an embedded version of Touch ID was the way to go.

Case in point: Marques Brownlee recently shared a video of a fingerprint sensor embedded into a display. The technology, which is called Clear ID, comes from Synaptics and is being demoed in a Vivo X20 Plus UD device.

So how does the technology measure up? Well it does seem to work quite well, but there are a few downsides worth noting.

Zalib Ali of iOS Hacker explains:

First it requires the device to have an OLED display otherwise it won’t work. Then the sensor that is placed under the screen is visible at certain angles and lighting conditions.

While seemingly minor, a company as detail-oriented as Apple likely couldn’t bear the thought of a sensor being visible beneath the screen.

Further, Ali cites an excerpt from the video where we learn that for the sensor to work properly, it must first shine a visible pulse of light onto a user’s finger.

It has to be shinning a light on your fingerprint for it to reflect back into the glass and read it. So when I put my finger on the indicator which is basically a helper for guiding my finger to the right place, you see a light shine for a second, a sort of pulse that’s long enough for it to read the reflection of my fingerprint on that sensor.

Are these deal breakers? Not necessarily. But the entire user experience seems a bit more involved than seamlessly picking up an iPhone X and having it authenticate you immediately via Face ID.

Moreover, Face ID is far more reliable and secure than Touch ID. An Apple support document on Face ID reads in part: “The probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID).”

Now is it possible that future iterations of the iPhone will at some point incorporate a Touch ID sensor into the display? While it’s certainly possible, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. To this point, Apple executives have said that Face ID will be a cornerstone of the iPhone user experience for quite some time.

Apple – BGR

Apple will reportedly debut new AirPods this year with at least two key upgrades

AirPods 2 Release Date

As is often the case with Apple, the company’s truly wireless AirPods headphones were nowhere close to being the first device to market in this emerging category. Apple is almost never first to market, of course. Instead, the company takes its time and develops the best product it can, and that product typically ends up being the most popular option. Apple did it with smartphones, the company did it with tablets, and now Apple has done it again with cord-free earbuds.

Apple’s AirPods were first released more than a year ago, and they’re so popular that supply still can’t keep up with demand. Apparently that isn’t stopping Apple from working on new versions of its first Apple-branded wireless headphones, and a new report says the second-generation model is set to be released this year.

A new report on Thursday morning from Bloomberg states that Apple is currently working on at least two different updated versions of its popular AirPods. The second version is supposedly due to be released next year at the earliest will reportedly feature water resistance, though it’s currently unclear what other new features Apple may have planned for 2019’s new AirPods. Before they’re released, however, Apple supposedly has a second-generation version of its AirPods planned for release this year.

According to the report, Apple’s new 2018 AirPods will feature at least two big upgrades. First, they’ll pack an upgraded wireless chip. The first-generation AirPods include Apple’s W1 wireless chip, and last year’s Apple Watch Series 3 included a new W2 wireless chip. It’s unclear if the second-generation AirPods will feature the W2 or a new W2 chip. In either case, improved wireless performance would be a welcome change for current AirPods users, who often report difficulty establishing and maintaining Bluetooth connections.

Apart from the wireless chip, the report states that Apple’s upcoming second-generation AirPods will also add support for the “Hey Siri” wake command. The currently available AirPods model does offer Siri support, but users must physically double-tap on one of the earbuds in order to wake Siri. The new version of Apple’s AirPods will supposedly allow users to simply speak the phrase “Hey Siri” at any time to wake Siri.

It’s unclear when Apple plans to release its second-generation AirPods. The first-generation model was released more than a year ago in December 2016.

Apple – BGR

Tim Cook: Apple is already working on products that won’t ship until the 2020s

Tim Cook Interview

Earlier this week, Apple was named the most innovative company in the world by Fast Company. Hardly a surprise, Apple over the last 12 months introduced a number of compelling new products, not the least of which was the iPhone X, an arguably revolutionary device that completely re-imagined what the smartphone user experience should be.

Alongside Apple’s #1 ranking, Tim Cook sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the publication where he touched on a number of interesting topics, including Apple’s financial situation and how the company plans to keep raising the bar for tech innovation in the years ahead.

One of the more interesting tidbits from Cook’s interview centered on Apple’s need to find a balance between researching and developing products and actually releasing something to market.

“You have to have a forcing function,” Cook explained. “For us, on the product side, we have to come up with our silicon requirements three, four-plus years in advance. So we’ve got things that we’re working on now that are way out in the 2020s.”

When asked about how Apple tends to be misunderstood in the media, Cook emphasized that the company is dedicated to making great products, not blindly making money at all costs. Though some cynics might understandably scoff at such a notion, Cook’s comments align with previous comments from Jony Ive and Steve Jobs who have said that Apple only focuses on generating cash as to have the luxury of developing game-changing products.

For a casual observer who hasn’t been a user of our products, the thing that they might miss is how different Apple is versus other technology companies. A financial person just looking at revenues and profits may think, They’re good [at making money]. But that’s not who we are. We’re a group of people who are trying to change the world for the better, that’s who we are. For us, technology is a background thing. We don’t want people to have to focus on bits and bytes and feeds and speeds. We don’t want people to have to go to multiple [systems] or live with a device that’s not integrated. We do the hardware and the software, and some of the key services as well, to provide a whole system.

Cook’s full interview can be enjoyed over here.

Apple – BGR

Documents suggest that Apple will release two new iPad models soon

Apple new iPads 2018

Apple coverage has alternated back and forth between the iPhone and the HomePod in recent months, but it looks like another product line will soon steal the spotlight. This week, French blog Consomac spotted filings which indicate that Apple has been granted approval by the Eurasian Economic Commission for two new devices identified as A1954 and A1893. The devices are described in the filings as “tablet computers,” suggesting they are new iPads.

Although new iPads with Face ID functionality are rumored to arrive before the end of the year, there’s a good chance that the devices referred to in these documents are far less exciting. As 9to5Mac explains, all signs point to the “tablet computers” being mundane refreshes of the standard iPad line, rather than brand new iPad Pros.

When it comes to Apple products, filings often turn up days or weeks prior to the actual unveiling of the devices. For example, mentions of the iPhone 7 and AirPods appeared just two weeks before the keynote in 2016. Plus, the latest MacBooks were discovered in the EEC database in May before making their debut at WWDC in June.

If the trend continues, the new iPads would be revealed within the next several weeks, which would be months before either WWDC 2018 or the inevitable iPhone event this fall. Consomac believes that this is a sign that Apple will hold a special press event in March to show off the new tablets, but it seems far more likely that Apple will simply roll out the refreshed iPad models without any fanfare, as it has on multiple occasions in the past.

In the end, this is all speculation based off of vague filings, but don’t be surprised if a couple of updated iPad models quietly find their way on to Apple’s online store within the next month or so, perhaps with lower price tags.

Apple – BGR