Opinion: Why the iPhone 6 camera is only 8 megapixels

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Date: Monday, September 29th, 2014, 18:07
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Opinion, Pictures

By Bob Snow

The iPhone 6 camera has the same 8 megapixel count as the 5s and this has spec-happy geeks bashing the phone. There are compelling reasons for going lower and I will try to lay them out.

Small sensors can suffer when they have a high pixel density. The sites that gather light become very small and they typically sacrifice low light performance. Low light performance gets traded off for higher resolution and even this becomes an issue with small sensors. No matter how high the resolution of the sensor, lens resolution comes into play much more when the sensor is small. If the sensor is small enough, the lens will not have nearly enough resolving power to take advantage of all the pixels. You need a bigger sensor for that. The image can only be as sharp as the light coming from the lens and that will most likely be the limiting factor. Think of a tiny sensor with a trillion pixels. Lens resolution will be the limiting factor.

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There is another reason the iPhone uses an 8MP sensor. Post processing. The latest iPhone 6 does a hell of a lot of post processing. According to Apple, “Auto image stabilization makes up for motion blur and hand shakiness by taking four photos with a short exposure time. Then the best parts of those photos are combined into one image with as little noise, subject motion, and hand shake as possible.” Apple is even using multiple exposures to eliminate noise in post processing. That is a lot of work, even for the powerful 64-bit A8 processor. The more pixels, the more processing that needs to happen. HDR is another feature that requires post processing. Multiple exposures are taken and then combined to create an image with greater dynamic range. Then there is burst mode. The camera takes up to ten images per second and then compares them all to select the best image. The biggest change to the camera of the iPhone 6 is the use of paired “focus pixels” which allow for phase detection auto focus. This is faster than contrast detection and provides big improvements to video and faster still shot focusing. Think about all of the post processing this phone does to the images, all without a hint of delay.

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Opinion: Flexibility Under Stress

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Date: Monday, September 29th, 2014, 18:37
Category: iPhone, Opinion

By Bob Snow

The new iPhone 6 Plus appears to have a problem. There have been a number of reports of the Plus deforming under a relatively normal mode of use. The phone, when placed in a front pocket for a length of time and stressed, can bend and not return to its original flat form. This is not a problem that can be simply dismissed, nor is it the end of the world. Apple knows how to benefit from the emotion and hype in the lead up to such an important introduction. The downside is that any negative publicity about the product gets similarly amplified. Take a deep breath and let’s look at the ramifications.

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Apple relies on profits from phone sales more than any other product line, and the Plus is a costly and very personal product from the perspective of the consumer. There is a lot riding on this, but it could be much worse. I don’t think the problem will effect the 4.7-inch phone, which should represent the bulk of iPhone 6 sales. Keep in mind that the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are still available. What remains to be seen is how many of the iPhone 6 Plus phones get bent and how Apple addresses the problem with customers. Phones with glass screens break all the time. I suspect many, many more of the Plus screens will break in the course of use than phones bending. Apple needs to treat customers with bent phones well. Give them a replacement phone, even credit towards a rival phone through their carrier, if the customer wants to keep a large screened phone in their pocket. For obvious reasons, this is going to be an almost exclusively male problem.

Why is this happening? The phone is made of aluminum. Aluminum, at least initially, bends elastically and springs back. Beyond that, it will deform plastically and not return to its original shape. The sides are critical to the strength of the phone in bending and they may not be strong enough, especially around the button holes. A plastic phone like the 5c remains elastic in bending to a far greater degree. It is more likely to crack or bend far enough to break the screen, before becoming permanently deformed. Plastic has a lot going for it and nothing to apologize for, but the aluminum phones feel great in your hand and there is an aesthetic to them that is very elegant.

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Apple is looking to employees to test its new Photos app

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Date: Tuesday, July 15th, 2014, 08:24
Category: Apple, Mac, News, Opinion, OS X, photos, Pictures, Pro Apps, Software

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We’ve mentioned in a previous post that Apple plans to replace the once venerated pro-level photo management app, Aperture, and presumably iPhoto as well, with an all new application called simply Photos. Now Apple is looking for someone to put it through its paces, and looking no further than its own collective of employees.

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Amazon introduces Prime Music – more value for your $99

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Date: Friday, June 13th, 2014, 08:49
Category: Amazon, Announcement, iOS, Mac, music, Opinion, Review, Services

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Amazon just announced the latest service in its Prime family, Prime Music, which together with Prime Instant Video and Prime Shipping will cost $99 a year. Earlier this year, Amazon increased the the price of a Prime subscription from $79 to $99, but at the time there was no indication that there would be any new features to offset the higher price-tag (unless you count the promise of a sky full of drones).

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Is peace on the horizon for smartphone rivals?

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Date: Tuesday, May 20th, 2014, 08:20
Category: Apple, Business, Google, Legal, News, Opinion, Patents, Samsung

gavel_transI’m not holding my breath that the Apple vs. Samsung patent war will end any time soon, but perhaps there is hope that one day in the future, we won’t have to read any more posts or articles about the never-ending ruling appeals filed by Apple or Samsung, or at least not as many. As of last Friday, Apple and Google have agreed to drop all current patent infringement lawsuits between them and move on with their lives.

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Apple TV software gets updated to 6.1…but what does it do?

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Date: Monday, March 10th, 2014, 23:57
Category: Apple, Apple TV, Features, Opinion, Software

upgrade-apple-tv_?Earlier today we announced that the long anticipated iOS 7.1 update was released. Hot on its heels were a few other updates including one for Xcode (5.1) which adds support for iOS 7.1, an update to the Remote app (4.2), and an update for the Apple TV. The thing is, I can’t seem to find out what the new 6.1 update does, at least not much. Everyone and their grandmother has mentioned the new ability to hide the channel icons directly on the Apple TV menu screen, which previously required you going into the Settings to do this.

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Will subscribers of Amazon Prime still think it’s a good value at $119?

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Date: Tuesday, February 4th, 2014, 08:46
Category: Amazon, Business, Finance, Opinion, Services

amazon-money1Last Thursday, Amazon reported their holiday quarter earnings and things didn’t look good. Their overall revenue was up 20% at $25.59 billion but analysts expected sales to come in at  just over $26 billion. This sounds very similar to the report of Apple’s earnings, which were good, but given the thumbs down for not meeting analysts’ expectations?  Unfortunately, Amazon’s net income of $239 million missed estimates by a huge margin. During the call, Amazon cited the rising cost of fuel and transportation for the increase, as well as the high frequency of orders from Prime members. As a result, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak suggested that it may raise the price of Amazon Prime memberships between $20 and $40 per year (currently $79), bringing the total annual cost of the service up to as much as $119.

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Acquisitions and the annoyance of abandoned apps

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Date: Friday, January 31st, 2014, 13:00
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, Business, Developer, Google, iPhone, Opinion, Services, Software

pirate_skull_crossbones_square_sticker-r77418cb09c3345e7b8854da982e2526a_v9wf3_8byvr_512Yahoo! has just acquired Incredible Labs, which developed the Donna personal assistant app for iPhone. The latest update on the Donna blog makes it clear what the fate of the app and service will be;

“The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close shortly. Following closing, Donna will be removed from the app store and discontinued as a service.”

No date has been given, but they are likely to follow the model where users will be given a window of a few months in order migrate their data and find a new solution. I’m not personally a user of Donna, however if I was I’d be pretty upset.

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Review: TotalFinder still bests Mavericks improvements

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Date: Wednesday, January 29th, 2014, 06:47
Category: Apple, Apps, Desktop Mac, Features, Mac, Opinion, Review, Software, Software

totalfinderOne constant in the universe has been complaints from OS X users about how little the Finder has advanced over the years. If you compare the Finder of OS 9 to that of Mountain Lion (10.8), there really aren’t any groundbreaking changes. A few Finder “replacements” have attempted to rectify this, but they are separate programs running alongside the OS X Finder. Programs like PathFinder and Forklift attempt to pile on a bunch of features on top of normal Finder-like functionality, which are useful, but unless you are willing to perform some technical voodoo on OS X, to force the system to use another program rather than the Finder, you end up bouncing between two different “Finders” because some things will only use the normal Finder. As appealing as some of these alternates are, I get annoyed having bounce between two programs.

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Chrome bug captures your every word behind your back

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Date: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, 08:37
Category: Announcement, Google, Hack, Opinion, privacy, security, Software, Websites

googlelisten2As if people were not paranoid enough about the amount of data Google captures about them, a recently discovered bug in Google’s Chrome web browser can now capture everything you say in front of your computer without you even knowing about it. And here is the kicker…it’s probably not even Google who is after your voice, it’s random hackers taking advantage of the exploit. According to developer Tal Ater, who discovered the exploit, the bug allows a malicious web site to open another browser window (just like a pop-up ad) behind the main window which continues to record your voice -even after you’ve closed the original site window- and sends the recorded data first through Google for processing, and then on to wherever the hacker wants.

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