Another report has suggested that Apple is taking a different tack with this year’s iPhone. Bloomberg reporter and renowned Apple scooper Mark Gurman has published a story claiming that the new handset will have a design “similar to the 6 and 6s.” We’ve heard this before — it suggests that Apple is holding back on a big aesthetic change until next year, when the iPhone celebrates its 10th birthday. Gurman is also reporting that the next iPhone will ditch the headphone jack — again, something that’s been rumored for some time — switching instead to “connectivity via Bluetooth and the charging port.” (Get ready for lots of Lightning headphones.)
The iPhone is known for its sublime photo-taking capabilities, however recently Android manufacturers — particularly Samsung — have managed to close the gap, if not create leads of their own. Apple is reportedly working on a dual-camera setup for this year’s model which will produce “brighter photos with more detail” by merging separate images shot with each sensor. The configuration will also help to sharpen photos captured in dark conditions, as well as retain image quality as the user zooms in.
Finally, Bloomberg is reporting that the new iPhone will have an updated home button similar to the MacBook’s Force Touch trackpad. Instead of a physical click, the new button will trigger a series of vibrations under the surface. The reasons for this are a little unclear — it could provide new functionality, or simply serve to save some space under the hood.
We’ve heard these rumors before, but Gurman’s story gives them greater weight. If they prove accurate, this year’s iPhone launch will be quite unusual. We’re used to a “tick-tock” release cycle — a numbered iPhone, followed by an iterative “s” model — which would make this year the iPhone 7. A largely unchanged design, similar to an “s” phone, would buck this trend, raising expectations for a more dramatic handset in 2017.
Apple has managed to pull in some extremely impressive numbers when it comes to its flagship mobile phone. While iPhone sales overall had begun to decline over the last quarter, that didn’t stop the company from selling its one billionth iPhone last week.
Apple’s CEO announced the milestone today during a special employee meeting in Cupertino this morning. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, thanked employees for “helping change the world every day,” noting that Apple has “always set out to make the best products that make a difference.”
The billionth iPhone was sold about two years after Apple sold its 500 millionth iPhone. That’s a lot of units, and with the impending launch of additional phones to its line, it’s likely to sell a whole lot more in the future.
Microsoft sure loves it when research projects beget actual products, and it just released another for the masses to play with. Pix is a replacement camera app (what?) available for iPhones and iPads (what?), and in short, it promises better photos of the people around you without any extra work on your part. It’ll run on just about every iOS device from the iPhone 5S on, and an Android version is in the works too. (Microsoft didn’t have a firm answer when I asked if these features would make their way into the Windows 10 Mobile camera.) And you know what? In some ways, I wish this was the camera app that Apple built in the first place.
First, the basics. The most important thing you need to know about Pix is that it’s been tuned to make your pictures of people look better.
“There are things the Apple camera does that we don’t do and might not ever do,” said Josh Weisberg, GM of computational photography at Microsoft. “The goal was around people photos — can we make better people photos than the stock camera? And we succeeded.”
From the moment you start Pix, it’s capturing what your camera is pointed at -– you can never tell when something’s about to happen, after all. Once you press the shutter button, Pix snaps 10 frames, and Weisberg says that’s where the magic really kicks in. Algorithms evaluate those ten frames for obvious things like sharpness or exposure, but also underlying characteristics like whether a person in the shot seems happy or sad. When that near-instantaneous process is done, you’ll be given up to three “Best Images.” The image data from the leftover photos is used to enhance those winners before being deleted. All of this happens on the fly and without any extra fiddling, so you don’t need to be a photo buff to snap some great shots.
If the app detects a bunch of similar pictures, it’ll stitch them into a Live Image, but only when it thinks what’s going on in the photos is interesting. Oh, and the Hyperlapse feature that Microsoft has been working on for years is here too. This time, though, you can turn existing photos into time-lapses, or just use it to stabilize video you just shot.
Using Pix is very much a learning process, and I don’t just mean for you, the user. According to Weisberg, the app sends anonymized bits of “telemetry” — settings data and what Best Images people fave’d or deleted — back to the mothership, where human judges will examine them and adjust the image processing algorithms accordingly. Basically, the more you use Pix, the more insight it gains into what makes a photo good. All told, Weinberg was right: The app really is helpful for improving your photos of people. Usually, anyway.
In no time at all, I was snapping photos using Pix that came out punchier and with a greater emphasis on the people in the shot. When the testing period inevitably overlapped with post-work drinks at a local dive, Pix shined even brighter. I mean that literally too. Smartphone camera sensors often flounder in dim, dank conditions, leaving software to do the heavy lifting required to make a passable photo. Microsoft’s photo processing was both super-fast and mostly great at brightening up pictures of my colleagues and removing grain without making things look unnatural. I was utterly impressed… until I wasn’t.
Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.
My biggest issue with Pix in its current form is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes my shots were clear improvements over what Apple’s camera app was capable of. Other times, though, Apple’s softwaer had a clear edge. Take landscape photos, for instance: Even before Microsoft’s instantaneous image processing did its thing, the app had trouble exposing shots with bright backgrounds. Pix’s outdoor shots tended to be a little blown out, while Apple’s camera software was generally better at balancing exposure levels.
And for all the work that went into teaching Pix to enhance photos of people, it still struggles at times. A “Best Image” it suggested of a colleague in the dimly lit dive mentioned earlier was noticeably less crisp than the image the camera actually captured. In the app’s zeal to brighten up her face, it smoothed out her features a little too much. Long story short, the version of Pix I played with was still fairly hit or miss.
Left: Microsoft Pix; Right: Apple’s camera app.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. In fact, I’d strongly recommend giving this a download, even if you’re not the sort of person who already juggles multiple camera apps. The benefits of better image processing can be seen from the get-go, but the weightier, far more fascinating goal is to see how much Microsoft’s system can learn about good photographs. In a way, it’s almost as though we’re collectively training it to better understand art. The very nature of Microsoft’s algorithmic processing means these early issues will probably get ironed out over time, and I’m fascinated to see how long it takes before Pix becomes great in every situation.
Edward Snowden is still trying to combat smartphone radio surveillance three years after spilling the NSA’s secrets. With help from hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, Snowden presented on Thursday designs at the MIT Media Lab for a case-like add-on device that monitors electrical signals sent to an iPhone’s internal antennas.
It looks like an external battery case with a small mono-color screen and is being described as an “introspection engine.” The device’s tiny probe wires have to attach to test points on the iPhone’s circuit board, which are accessible through the SIM card slot. The phone has two antennas that give off electrical signals and they’re used by its radios, including GPS and Bluetooth.
The probe wires read the radio’s electric signals, and by doing so the modified phone warns you when these signals transmit information when they’re meant to be off. You’ll instantly receive alert messages or even an audible alarm, and the phone can even shut off automatically. The intention here is to allow reporters to carry their phones into hostile foreign countries without revealing their locations to government-funded adversaries. They’ll still be able to record video and audio while their iPhone’s radio signals are disabled.
However, the device is still nothing more than a design for now. Snowden and Huang are hoping to build a prototype over the next year, and eventually start offering these modified iPhones to journalists.
Add one more to the list of Facebook apps belatedly making use of recent iPhone features. Facebook has introduced 3D Touch support to Messenger on iOS, making your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus that much more useful when you’re chatting up a storm. The update adds pressure-sensitive previews to seemingly everything — you can peek at chats, contacts, locations, media, web links and even stickers. If you want to find out whether or not that conversation or photo is worth viewing, you’ll want to get the new version right away.
If you’re wondering what the iPhone 7 should look like when it’s more than just a bare shell covered in watermarks, look no further. NowhereElse.fr has obtained a leaked photo that appears to offer an exceptionally clear, more complete view of Apple’s upcoming handset. The snapshot of the device sample shows that, yes, the standard-sized future iPhone should have a much larger, protruding camera lens (and presumably a larger sensor) along with cleaner antenna lines. While there’s no guarantees that this is exactly what Apple will launch later this year, we believe this photo was taken outside of the offices of Lite-On, a company with expertise optical and power supply technologies. It’s possible that someone brought the iPhone chassis to Lite-On or a nearby firm for testing.
The shot doesn’t verify other rumored details, such as the absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack, dual-SIM support or increased storage. And is the camera higher resolution, or will Apple offer a similar resolution and improve image quality (such as low light performance) instead? We’d add that this doesn’t show the larger iPhone 7 Plus, which is widely rumored to have dual rear cameras that would improve focusing and overall fidelity. This may not be the last leak you see, but we have a hunch that you won’t get all the answers until Apple holds its iPhone launch event sometime in the weeks ahead.
Another week, another iPhone 7 leak. (Hey, it rhymes!) Following the set of components allegedly showing dual-SIM support, up to 256GB of storage and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the next iPhone, Chinese repair shop Rock Fix is back with a photo of what it claims to be the 4.7-inch iPhone 7’s rear casing. Most notably, there are fewer plastic antenna bands here, and the main camera is said to feature a larger CMOS sensor — here’s hoping this will offer larger pixel sites to boost light sensitivity. What’s interesting is that contrary to WSJ’s report earlier this week, Rock Fix pointed out that the headphone jack is here to stay on one of the two 4.7-inch variants, which would explain why we’re seeing conflicting rumors about the headphone jack.
Rock Fix added that the cheaper 4.7-inch model — our money’s on the one that’s keeping the headphone jack — will replace the aging iPhone 6 in the new lineup. As for the bigger iPhone 7 Plus, it’ll unlikely have a variant with the headphone jack, but we’re told that it’ll be the only one featuring the special dual-lens camera we saw last time. Both sizes will apparently have dual-SIM slots, which is a common feature in competitive markets like China and India. If true, this move will hopefully give Apple a much needed boost after its recent iPhone sales decline.
Update: We’ve updated our article with new information regarding the special variant that will apparently be keeping the headphone jack, as well as the above image of a purported iPhone 7 chassis without the headphone jack.
Most BBM users finally have access to the app’s video calling capability. BlackBerry has released the feature for Android and iOS in Asia-Pacific, which is apparently home to its biggest userbase. The company said it made cross-platform video calls available in the US and Canada first, because it wanted to be able to fix bugs before it reaches more people. Since video calling is now stable, the phonemaker can roll it out to the rest of world.
While BBM isn’t as popular as its newer, shinier rivals like Messenger or WhatsApp anymore, BlackBerry is still developing new features for it. In fact, this release is but a small part of a bigger rollout. Later this summer, the company will launch the capability to register for an account using a phone number, among other things. Android users will be able to share larger videos, as well, while those on iOS will be able to mute group notifications.
If you’re eagerly awaiting a load of new features for this year’s iPhone, you might be a bit disappointed come fall. The Wall Street Journal reports that the upcoming models will offer only modest changes from the current iPhone 6S and 6S Plus rather than a more robust redesign. Apple has been trotting out new designs every two years with the “S” models offering mostly internal tweaks in between. According to WSJ’s sources though, that won’t be the case this year.
WSJ reports that both the 4.7- and 5.5-inch models will return, and they’ll do so without a 3.5mm headphone jack. Rumors have gone back and forth on whether or not Apple will ditch the port entirely, and we’ve even caught a glimpse of alleged iPhone 7 parts that indicate the jack is staying. The rumblings about the company’s preference for Lightning connectivity for headphones began late last year and has been the most discussed tweak for the new models. Nixing the 3.5mm port is said to not only improve the phone’s water resistance, but also allow for a thinner handset.
Apple is planning a massive overhaul for 2017’s 10th anniversary of the iPhone, according to WSJ. Those updates are said to include an edge-to-edge OLED display while nixing the iconic home button entirely. Sources say that the Touch ID security features would be part of the display itself. Of course, that release is well over a year away, so things could change significantly between now and then.
What’s the reason for not having a major update this year? Apple’s coming off its first quarter of sales decline in the iPhone’s history, but WSJ reports that the reason for subtle changes is due to tech that’s currently in the works taking more time to finish. While the iPhone 5S featured the addition of Touch ID, last year’s 6S and 6S Plus focused largely on internals with 3D Touch and improved cameras. Both kept the same overall design as the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 the year before. Nixing the headphone jack wouldn’t be a small change though, especially if you’ve already invested in a set of wired headphones.
One of the most intriguing rumors about the upcoming iPhone 7 is that it’ll ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning users will have to get audio output via Lightning or Bluetooth. But according to a leakster, this may no longer be the case. Rock Fix, a smartphone repair shop based in China’s Ganzhou, has recently been posting photos of alleged iPhone 7 components. One of these is apparently the 4.7-inch model’s Lightning cable assembly which, contrary to what we’ve been hearing before, still has a headphone jack attached to it. And more recently, the shop shared photos of what it claims to be the next iPhone’s dual-SIM trays, which will be a first for Apple if true.
Other parts shown off by Rock Fix include some screen panels in the usual two sizes, some SanDisk memory chips of up to a whopping 256GB, plus a dual-lens camera for the larger model (hello, Huawei!). The shop owner also told us that there will be some changes to the antenna design, though he clarified that this won’t get rid of those antenna bands on the back of the phone; maybe it’s more to do with the rumored switch to Intel’s modem for the GSM models.
Despite such recent leaks, there’s still some uncertainty regarding the iPhone 7’s features. For one, just three days ago, an industry insider claimed he heard from a Foxconn source saying Apple had canned the dual-lens camera because the technology wasn’t ready, but the following day another insider shot this rumor down, as he had heard from multiple suppliers saying the tooling was already made and that it’d be too late to change it (a self-proclaimed Foxconn employee commented below this Weibo post to say mass production started last month). He added that Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi are also exploring dual-lens cameras for their upcoming smartphones, so it’ll be interesting to see what the mobile industry will offer in the coming months.