Why iPhones Keep Losing the ‘Blind’ Smartphone Camera Challenge [VIDEO]

Tech YouTuber Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee on Thursday published a video explaining why iPhones keep losing his annual “blind” smartphone camera tests.

MKBHD last week gave the iPhone 14 Pro his “best camera” award for 2022, even though Apple’s flagship iPhone placed seventh (out of 15 phones) in his more scientific, blind voting-based competition for 2022 that garnered 21.2 million votes. What’s more, the “Pro” iPhones of the year were eliminated in the first rounds of his bracket-style tournaments in 2020 and 2021.

The YouTuber has a theory (a couple, actually) as to why that happened. First, smartphone cameras today are more software than anything else.

Companies like Apple and Google have really upped their computational photography game to get the most out of the relatively smaller 12 MP image sensors they’ve been using for years now while other phone makers have moved on to much larger snappers.

However, Apple no longer needs to have its software working overtime now that they have upgraded to a larger 48 MP sensor that captures more light information with the iPhone 14 Pro. Software processing still being dialled up to 11 on these larger sensors leads to what MKBHD called an “overprocessed” look in images.

Google has also been guilty of this since switching to a new, larger camera sensor with last year’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a, however, stuck to the same sensor-software combo Google had been using since the Pixel 3, and thus ended up winning MKBHD’s (scientific) blind smartphone camera test for 2022.

Google did get the chance to tune its camera software since the Pixel 6 lineup, leading to the Pixel 7 Pro placing only slightly behind the Pixel 6a in the contest. It took Google a couple of product generations to get the hardware-software balance just right after switching to larger sensors, and Apple only made the jump to a 48 MP main camera with the iPhone 14 Pro last year.

For the older iPhones’ first-round losses, MKBHD thinks it has to do with how different phones treat human subjects.

Thanks to its Real Tone feature, Google is able to better represent skin tones across the spectrum. Meanwhile iPhones, the YouTuber noted, have a penchant to want to evenly light the subject’s face in most scenarios, which can sometimes result in unflattering images.

MKBHD went on to explain that for his “best camera” award, he takes into account the entire camera experience as a whole. This includes shutter speed, camera app speed, autofocus speed and reliability, and more, and is something iPhones excel in. What’s more, the YouTuber’s blind camera tests also don’t include video, where iPhones still reign supreme (and by a big margin to boot).

MKBHD also left us with a prediction for the iPhone 15 Pro, the launch of which is about nine months out. He instructed us to look out for “one new word they [Apple] use to explain some software improvement with the camera.”

The software won’t be the only thing Apple improves with the iPhone 15 Pro, though. This year’s flagship iPhone lineup is expected to get some major hardware improvements, including a new telephoto camera with a periscope lens for increased optical zoom.

You can check out MKBHD’s full video on what’s going on with the iPhone’s camera below:

YouTube video

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