Why Apple May Have Limited Portrait Lighting to iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus


Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered he could edit an iOS 11 Portrait mode photo taken by iPhone 7 Plus, to have Portrait Lighting effects. How did he do it?

On Twitter, he explains “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.”

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He also adds “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.”

Now why would Apple limit Portrait Lighting to the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, if it’s “just” a software limitation?

John Gruber from Daring Fireball has answered that question today, saying:

My understanding is that these effects aren’t enabled on iPhone 7 Plus because performance was really slow at capture time. It really does require the A11 Bionic chip for adequate performance live in the camera. And Apple decided against shipping it as a feature for 7 Plus that could only be applied in post, because that felt like half a feature. So I’ve heard.

Notice the part “so I’ve heard”, suggesting he got this little nugget of information from a source close to Apple (as he has done so in the past).

Shortly after, he updated his post to add “What I don’t know is why the new lighting effects are not available when you use an iPhone X or 8 Plus to edit a portrait mode photo that was taken using an iPhone 7 Plus. This should be possible.”

Portrait Lighting on iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus allows users to add real-time studio lighting effects in Portrait mode and are essentially selling features of these latest iPhones.

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What do you think? Should Portrait Lighting be available on iPhone 7 Plus? It would be nice, but we all know Apple wants users to experience the best features on the newest iPhones.


  • Tim

    Oh ffs, this could also run on the iphone 6 probably, maybe even the SE or an iphone 5. There’s nothing super amazing that apps weren’t doing years ago in this…it’s just baked into ios now. The idea that only the A11 chip can pull this off in a satisfactory manner is BS to the 9th degree. The most logical answer is that Apple is crippling older devices to give newer ones a feature advantage.

  • Olivier

    why ? to create a value over the 7 Plus and a feature that is exclusive to newer devices, adding an argument on why to buy the 8 Plus over the 7.

  • winnertakesteve

    So they withheld a feature out of concern for a smooth, high quality experience…

    Sadly that mantra didn’t get applied to *gestures wildly at literally everything about iOS nowadays*

  • Mr Dog

    He should post a video of how long it takes to process so everyone shuts up

  • Jon

    Yes truly that is the most logical explanation. Everyone knows that companies retain customers by screwing them over. The absolute most logical scenario is that an iPhone 6 user feels cheated and feels like Apple has wronged them so they run to the store and by another phone from the company they’re incredibly angry at. That’s the most logical explanation for this. Totally.