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Apple Could Have Brought a Big iPhone X Feature To Older iPhone But Didn't, Developer Says (twitter.com) 64

Steven Troughton-Smith, a prominent iOS developer best known for combing new software codes for references for upcoming features, over the weekend indicated that portrait mode lighting effects, a major feature in the current iPhone generation -- iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, could technically be added to iPhone 7 Plus from last year. The feature works like this: you take a picture, go to the photos app on your new iPhone and play with the "Lighting" effects. He writes: So yeah you just need to hexedit the metadata in the HEIC. Not quite sure where, I copied a whole section from an iPhone X Portrait Mode photo and it worked. Original photo taken on 7 Plus on iOS 11. Someone could automate this. Just to add insult to injury, if you AirDrop that photo back to the iPhone 7 Plus now it shows the Portrait Lighting UI, and lets you change mode. So Portrait Lighting is 100% an artificial software limitation. 7 Plus photos can have it, 7 Plus can do it.
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Apple Could Have Brought a Big iPhone X Feature To Older iPhone But Didn't, Developer Says

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  • I know that this is news for nerds, but still, this is completely unimportant. So, you can duplicate one functionality of a new smartphone by manipulating images in software? OK, but why do I care, exactly?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let's get up in arms about what amounts to a shitty photo editing trick. I really don't see this "feature" being important. It's flashy, yes. So I suppose it appeals to the selfie-obsessed troglodytes (and troglodytettes, must be inclusive here) that can't imagine not overindulging in every conceivably trendy possible way to selfie-take and selfie-post at the earliest possible time, but as far as actual usability goes? Who cares?

      On the bright side, at least the Face Recognition hasn't been shown to be b

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Think the point is Apple is intentionally telling users on older platforms "fuck off" rather than trivially enabling a feature. That kind of shitty behaviour against (tech) consumers _IS_ news for nerds. But, whatever -- feel free to continue to shitbash.

    • by dstyle5 ( 702493 )
      Perhaps they are hoping for rage click/comments from the 1/100000 /. readers who are actually surprised that something like this is possible and that a benevolent corporate monolith such as Apple would withhold such a feature from their iPhone 7?
    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      OK, but why do I care, exactly?

      Artificial limitations, planned obsolescence, shitty business practices etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's like, apple wants you to buy a new one every year!

    • If I actually had an iPhone 7 and read this news, I would throw it out the window and buy a Samsung, Oppo or OnePlus and never buy any Apple again.
      Oh wait, I'd buy a Sony Xperia X and put Jolla's Sailfish OS on it.
  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:00PM (#55590107)

    Maybe they were in a hurry to get those features added for the new generation of smartphone and didn't want the time penalty of retro-porting and testing. No different from device driver support for old versions of Linux. Though eventually someone does get around to do retro-ports.

    • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @07:03PM (#55591419)

      As far as I understand it, they DID port it.

      Just to add insult to injury, if you AirDrop that photo back to the iPhone 7 Plus now it shows the Portrait Lighting UI, and lets you change mode.

      The feature is baked in and ready to go on the 7 Plus, but only the X will write the requisite metadata in the header to trigger it.
      Copying that metadata over from a photo - any photo - taken on the X and pasting it over the metadata on a photo from the 7 Plus results in the 7 Plus activating the feature.

      As far as I understand it, anyway. I don't have an iThing so all I can do is trust the summary.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:07PM (#55590147)

    How would this have sold more iPhone Xs?

    • Re:Oh please (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:24PM (#55590271)

      It would have sold more future iPhones by showing current iPhone 7 users that buying an iPhone is a good value for the money.

      With this news, it instead shows them that Apple kept a feature from their current iPhone in order to make them buy a new phone, thus showing them they can't trust Apple and should pick a different company for their next phone.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well.. it was a key part of their very recent ad campaign so yeah... its about selling new generation iphones (the 8 and the X).

      The /. Title does say iphone X.. but two thirds of the way through the huge first sentence from the op has this transitional phrase: ...a major feature in the current iPhone generation -- iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X...

      And thus... the ad campaign that came out before the iPhone X but upon release of the iPhone 8 (but this does not include the iPhone 7 which the original op said was

  • by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:08PM (#55590151)
    My guess is that a "cornerstone" feature like this isn't so much artificially restricted as it is just disabled because Apple isn't testing iPhone 7s. That's not to say they won't backport, but their hands are probably pretty full just fixing iOS 11's messes.
    • My guess is that a "cornerstone" feature like this isn't so much artificially restricted as it is just disabled because Apple isn't testing iPhone 7s. That's not to say they won't backport, but their hands are probably pretty full just fixing iOS 11's messes.

      I mean we've been lobbing pretty much exactly the same criticism at Android for all of it's existence, but without the lovely benefit-of-the-doubt tone. If they aren't porting it then they aren't porting it, and all that "old iPhones get all the new functionality they're capable of" rhetoric is not exactly true, is it?

  • Um...Thank you? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:34PM (#55590377)
    I have seen numerous companies that had a tiered line where the lower end model is identical to the higher end just feature locked. Part of the fun of getting the lower end model was hacking it to unlock the higher end features. a good percentage of the automotive head units are this way. In fact the Ford I have now has a head unit that supports a backup camera but my model doesn't support the option so if I want to add a camera I have to flash a different model firmware.
  • I'm pretty sure we ALL knew that applying a little post processing to an image wasn't tied to hardware. Not unless it made use of some added instructions for better performance and even them the lock would only be on that implementation.
    • Actually, I suspect this is tied to the dual lens setup which gives the phone perspective on your face. Of course the iphone 7 also has dual lens.

  • by rbpOne ( 2184720 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:53PM (#55590513)
    Please don't go down that road, Slashdot.
    • Please don't go down that road, Slashdot.

      You must be new here. They pretty much went all-in on a clickbait model a long time ago.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:57PM (#55590551)

    That literally describes most software from most vendors that gets released on Smartphones. The camera app especially changes with each new model and doesn't get back ported to previous phones. Software versions are arbitrarily locked, and even features are locked between devices, e.g. Samsung Health on Galaxy S4 doesn't work with Garmin's bike cadence sensor. It does on the Galaxy S5 for no reason what so ever.

  • Apple can basically get away with anything it does because its user base a) knows next to nothing about how hardware or software works under the hood, b) has no idea how cheaply Apple manufactures its products and c) hangs on to the irrational idea that "if you buy Apple, you get the best in the world". I bought the latest greatest iPad as a gift for a relative who only uses Apple products. I checked it out before I gave it to her. I saw nothing that even remotely impressed me either software or hardware w
    • Apple can basically get away with anything it does because its user base a) knows next to nothing about how hardware or software works under the hood, b) has no idea how cheaply Apple manufactures its products and c) hangs on to the irrational idea that "if you buy Apple, you get the best in the world".

      This is In stark contrast to the Android User base which, by and large:

      1. Knows next to nothing about how hardware or software works under the hood;

      2. Has no idea how cheaply $OEM$ manufactures its products, and;

      3. Hangs on to the irrational idea that "If you avoid Apple, you strike a blow for freedom."

      See how that works?

      • Yeah... generally the Android buyer gets a product that costs significantly less money and has a less recognizable brand name on it. (It's also more likely to have a bunch of preloaded crap apps and be tethered to the Google marketplace instead of the Apple one, but it's easier to install 3rd party apps.)

        However, on point 3 it's far more likely for an Apple buyer to think they've done something special buying Apple than it is for an Android device buyer to think similarly about Android.

        Lots of people buy

  • by d3vi1 ( 710592 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @05:22PM (#55590769)

    From what I understand, portrait lighting depends on a depth camera. Once you take the photo, if you also have the depth information, you can indeed change the "portrait" settings on any iOS 11 device, but you can't take it since the iPhone 7 doesn't actually have the depth camera.Actually the 'developer' confuses portrait mode with portrait lighting.

    Portrait mode which works on the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus and X is accomplished by using the two cameras simulate the depth of field effect of a large diaphragm.

    Portrait lighting uses the depth camera on the iPhone X to also get a depth map. It is used in turn to figure out which is the face/head and what is the background in the picture. It applies the light effects on the head and darkens the background. If you capture the picture on an iOS device that supports depth mapping, you can indeed edit it on another device since all the needed information is present in the photo.

    Apple has a history of almost artificially restricting features like it did with FaceTime on non-front camera phones (iPhone 3GS). It made sense if you think about it, you can't see and be seen at the same time. At the time, jailbreaks allowed the activation of FaceTime on non-front camera devices, but it was almost pointless.

    • The 7+ has a depth camera but does't allow portrait mode.
    • but you can't take it since the iPhone 7 doesn't actually have the depth camera

      Not only does it, maybe you should actually click through the links to see this very thing in action.

  • No one concentrates on good photography and techniques anymore -- just runs their selfies through a bunch of filters to post on the latest soshul meedjuh fad app.

    Honestly, camera phones do have their advantages (for recording abuse by police, etc), but I wish everyone wasn't snapping (touching?) pictures every few minutes. It distracts from real-life enjoyment of an event or place. Form a picture in your head, take pictures like you have 24 exposures before you need a new roll.

    I think the cheap/ubiquitous

  • Portrait mode lighting effects are done in real time on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and Apple makes the claim that it it's sufficiently processor intensive that it requires the A11 chip. The fact that the iPhone 7 Plus can do it to a photo after the fact isn't terribly special; so could an iPhone SE, it would just take longer.

  • If someone else wonders what it means, HEIC is image file format, encoded using HEVC [wikipedia.org]. Only latest iOS and MacOS X seem capable of opening that.
  • Can someone write an app that fiddles with the picture header to activate it?

  • So, a tech company puts a software feature into a high-end model but doesn't enable it in the low-end model even though the low-end is technically capable of it.

    Isn't that the way software has worked since, like, forever? They were doing this back in the mainframe days. How and why is this a surprise to anyone?

    Next up: Ford could have put leather seats into the base-model Mustang but didn't. They mysteriously only show up in the "performance" trim, even though they have nothing to do with performance! W

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