iPhone XS Users Complain About Skin-Smoothing Selfie Camera

Over the course of the last week, the front-facing camera in the iPhone XS and XS Max has been receiving a lot of attention because the selfies captured on the new devices are drastically different from those captured with the iPhone X or earlier iPhone models.

In a MacRumors forum thread and on Reddit, Apple has been accused of using a skin-smoothing feature or a "beauty filter" for prettier selfies from the front-facing camera. The effect was demoed by a Reddit user in the image below:

iphonexsmaxskinsmoothing
We covered the issue in our recent iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone X camera comparison, where we did see the smoothing effect, but the front-facing camera's performance has garnered so much attention since then that we wanted to more prominently highlight the problem.

When taking a selfie in a situation where lighting is less than ideal, such as indoors or outdoors in areas with lower lighting, the iPhone XS Max appears to be applying a drastic smoothing effect that can hide freckles, blemishes, and other issues.

In full outdoor lighting the problem is less apparent, which has led to speculation that the skin smoothing is actually a result of some heavy-handed noise reduction techniques.

You can test the new camera yourself with an iPhone XS or XS Max and an older iPhone like an iPhone X model by taking selfies indoors and outdoors and comparing the differences between the two. In almost all cases where the lighting is low or uneven, photos captured with an iPhone XS Max look dramatically different.

It makes sense that we'd see differences between the iPhone XS and say, an iPhone 8 because the front-facing cameras are different, but as far as we know, the iPhone X and XS are using the same 7-megapixel front-facing camera. Apple detailed several changes to the rear-facing camera in the iPhone XS models, but beyond a new Neural Engine, there were no announced changes to the TrueDepth camera system.

Because the camera is the same, Apple is doing something different with the way photos are processed after being captured, which could be related to the new HDR features that have been implemented. Apple has a new A12 chip and next-generation Neural Engine that are aiding in photo processing to enable a Smart HDR feature that applies to both the rear and front-facing cameras.

Turning off HDR does not remove the smoothing effect, nor does tweaking any other camera setting, so if the ultra skin smoothing is a result of something like unintentional excessive noise reduction, it needs to be tweaked on Apple's end through a software update. YouTuber Unbox Therapy recently demoed the issue with a series of selfies.


While it's mostly the front-facing camera that's been under scrutiny, this is a problem that affects both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras and it's not entirely limited to skin. Excessive smoothing can be seen affecting other images as well.

There has been speculation that Apple intentionally implemented the skin smoothing feature to mimic the beauty mode that's popular in Asia and common on some other smartphones, but it's not clear if that was Apple's intention.

Many MacRumors readers and Reddit users have reported the issue to Apple, and given that this issue has received so much attention, we may see front-facing camera tweaks in a future iOS update.

Top Rated Comments

Andres Cantu Avatar
48 months ago
So the “S” stood for smooth! :D
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
48 months ago
Ah, Unbox Therapy. Shouty unrehearsed reviews by a person whose head most resembles an owl.



Attachment Image
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haydn! Avatar
48 months ago
So. Apple identifies you're a bit ugly. But rather than upset you by telling you, fixes it for you so you look smokin' hot for your friends. And now you're annoyed?
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pelea Avatar
48 months ago
When the iphone 6 has a better selfie cam than the xs u know there's a problem with this phone. I don't think apple will fix this so have fun with your super-blurred selfies for all of you who enjoy water-paintings.

Also i'd just like to point out that people are defending apple in removing large amounts of detail from their photos.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ugahairydawgs Avatar
48 months ago
iPhone XS Users Complain About More Visually Appealing Pictures

Fixed your headline for you there MacRumors
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
everythingapplerainbow Avatar
48 months ago
is it "users" or just Unbox Therapy?
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

RIP iPod Feature

RIP iPod: A Look Back at Apple's Iconic Music Player Over the Years

Friday May 13, 2022 2:25 pm PDT by
Apple earlier this week announced the discontinuation of the iPod touch, and because it was the last iPod still available for purchase, its sunsetting effectively marks the end of the entire iPod lineup. To send the iPod on its way, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most notable iPod releases over the last 21 years. Original iPod (2001) Introduced in October...
iOS 16 mock for article

Gurman: iOS 16 to Include New Ways of System Interaction and 'Fresh Apple Apps'

Sunday May 15, 2022 6:14 am PDT by
iOS 16 will include new ways of interacting with the system and some "fresh Apple apps," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said, offering some more detail on what Apple has in store for the upcoming release of iOS and iPadOS set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman wrote that while iOS 16 is not likely to introduce a major face-lift to...
maxresdefault

Unbox Therapy Shares Hands-On Look at iPhone 14 Pro Max Replica

Monday May 16, 2022 4:40 am PDT by
YouTuber Unbox Therapy has shared a hands-on look at the iPhone 14 Pro Max using what he claims is a one-to-one replica created by third-party case makers with access to detailed schematics and dimensions for Apple's new upcoming flagship smartphone. As with the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, in 2022, we are expecting a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro and a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, but this time the Pro...
iOS 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 With Wallet and Podcast Updates

Monday May 16, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5, the fifth major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were initially released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.5 come a little over two months after the launch of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4. The iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in...
14 16 inch 2021 mbps back to back feature orange

Five Things You Still Can't Do With a MacBook Pro

Wednesday May 11, 2022 11:16 am PDT by
It's been over 200 days since Apple debuted its redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. Offered in 14-inch and 16-inch display sizes, the new-look MacBooks wowed Apple fans and creative pros alike with their powerful custom Apple silicon, mini-LED screen, and multiple connectivity options. But there are still some things you can't do with a MacBook Pro. Here are five features some Mac users are still...
apple mac ipad watch trade in

Apple Launches Limited-Time Bonus Trade-In Credit for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch in Many Countries

Wednesday May 11, 2022 5:14 am PDT by
Apple has launched a special limited-time offer for iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and iPad trade-in that offers customers additional credit when trading in their only device for a new one. The offer is being run in several countries including the US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and France. In the UK, Apple is offering up to £50 of extra trade-in credit...
airpodsprodesign

Kuo: AirPods, MagSafe Battery Pack, and Other Apple Accessories Also to Switch to USB-C in Future

Sunday May 15, 2022 5:59 am PDT by
Earlier this week, well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple plans to release at least one iPhone 15 model with a USB-C port in 2023. Now, in a follow-up tweet, he has claimed that accessories like AirPods, the MagSafe Battery Pack, and the Magic Keyboard/Mouse/Trackpad trio would also switch to USB-C in the "foreseeable future." Both the iPhone and all of the aforementioned...