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.

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