Apple Starts Planning a Future iPhone's Cameras Around Three Years in Advance

Following the launch of the iPhone 13 models, Apple's vice president of camera hardware engineering Graham Townsend and vice president of camera software engineering Jon McCormack spoke with British GQ's Robert Leedham about iPhone cameras.

iPhone 13 Pro Light Blue Side Feature
Townsend revealed that Apple starts planning future iPhone camera systems about three years in advance of public availability, suggesting that the company began developing the camera systems on the iPhone 13 models as early as 2018.

"The planning has to start about three years ahead, because that's when we actually fix the specification of the silicon," says Townsend. "So, for instance, the sensor gets defined at that point and the A15 Bionic processor is also frozen. That's when we have to begin to talk with Jon and predict the experiences that we want. Obviously when we designed the new ultra-wide lens, we were going to deliver macro photos. But how is that going to work both in stills and video?"

All four iPhone 13 models feature a new Cinematic mode that lets users record video with a shallow depth of field and automatic focus changes between subjects, and McCormack reflected on the challenges of developing this feature.

"It was a long process with lots of windy roads, but like most profound things it takes a while," says McCormack. "We're not just looking at the depth of every single frame, but there's also this thing called temporal stability: as we move between frames with people moving, how do we make sure you don't end up with weird edges and stuff like that?"

The interview goes on to discuss Apple's environmental responsibility and emphasizes how far the iPhone camera has come over the years.

"We're not asking for the impossible, but we are asking that the camera achieves the best it can every year," says Townsend. "Over the past ten years we've seen a dramatic improvement, but there is no rest."

Townsend and McCormack also spoke with CNN Underscored's Jacob Krol, touching on the simplicity that Apple aims for with the iPhone camera:

"Long before you even hit the shutter, you just bring the camera up, we're looking at auto exposure, white balance, autofocus to make sure that we're getting all of the right information, raw information captured," Jon McCormack, VP of camera software engineering at Apple, tells us.

The Stalman Podcast also shared an interview with Townsend and McCormack.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13
Related Forum: iPhone

Popular Stories

Apple Intelligence General Feature

Apple Intelligence Features Not Coming to European Union at Launch Due to DMA

Friday June 21, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple today said that European customers will not get access to the Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and SharePlay Screen Sharing features that are coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac this September due to regulatory issues related to the Digital Markets Act. In a statement to Financial Times, Apple said that there will be a delay as it works to figure out how to make the new...
Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
amazon echo dot

Amazon Could Charge Up to $10/Month for Alexa

Friday June 21, 2024 2:55 pm PDT by
Apple competitor Amazon is working on a revamp of its Alexa assistant, and the new version could cost up $10 per month, according to a report from Reuters. The upcoming version of Alexa will support conversational generative AI, and Amazon is planning for two tiers of service. There will be a free tier and a second, premium tier that is priced at $5 at a minimum, with Amazon considering...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Launches Cheaper $10.99/Month Premium Plan Without Audiobooks

Friday June 21, 2024 4:22 pm PDT by
Spotify today announced the launch of a new Basic paid plan that offers a small discount for dropping access to audiobooks. Priced at $10.99 per month, the Basic option includes all of the music benefits of Spotify like ad-free playback, but without added monthly audiobook listening time. The $11.99 standard Premium Individual plan that Spotify offers includes ad-free playback and 15 hours...
iPhone 16 Pro Max Generic Feature 2

5 Biggest Changes Rumored for iPhone 16 Pro Max

Wednesday June 19, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Given Apple's rumored plan to add an all-new high-end tier to its iPhone 17 series in 2025, this could be the year for Apple to bring its boldest "Pro Max" model to the table — the kind of iPhone 16 upgrade that stands tall above its siblings, both figuratively and literally. If you have been holding out for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, here are five of the biggest changes rumored to be coming...

Top Rated Comments

Jakewilk Avatar
36 months ago

Is design chosen 10 years in advance? I have been ready for something new the last 2 generations
We got an entirely new design last generation… What are you waiting for? A circular display?
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unregistered 4U Avatar
36 months ago
Wait, everyone knows that Apple doesn’t make final decisions on what will be in an iPhone until a few days before their introduction! I’ve read a LOT of stories about things that Apple cuts at the last minute while still being able to procure parts, build and deliver millions and millions of phones within a week.

This is just someone attempting to undercut Apple’s well known miraculous abilities to produce devices with little to no lead time!

/s
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
satchmo Avatar
36 months ago

Incredible, did you know Samsung and Google only plan their cameras 1 year in advance?
No, but maybe you can point me to where you got that info.

BTW, Pixel 5 sold 7mil to iPhone 12's 200m. It's a bit easier to change yearly when you don't have to source parts and scale as much.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
n0va Avatar
36 months ago
CONFIRMED: apple will make iphones in 3 years
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AirunJae Avatar
36 months ago

Great news! The day will come when iPhone will be able to produce great results as DSLR.
Gonna be a couple days before that happens, hard to beat physics! That said, iPhone photos look great on the screen of a phone, just need more data as they start to fall apart a bit when you view them on something larger like a 13" screen. This was one of the reasons I got a Fujifilm for photos of our kid, in case we ever wanted to print them.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FlyingTexan Avatar
36 months ago

Scale also stifles innovation. There was a member who had posted a very informative article on why the innovation at Apple is slow. The gist was obviously “scale”
Innovation at apple is slow? They just blasted Intel and AMD out of the water with CPU efficiencies and capabilities, have the highest quality laptops, started a TV network, have built their own cloud storage, created their own OS that has integrated multiple OS's across multiple products basically into one, made a cell phone on your wrist that can measure your heart and vitals, and are building a freaking car.... what's your idea of fast innovation?

You can't pick and chose across multiple companies. Name a single company doing anything like apple? Just because Samsung put a 10x lens in a camera with more MP or Huawei had a full screen without a notch doesn't cut it. They build a very solid product and the people complaining about the product are missing the fact that the phone is only 1/3rd of it (at least for me). There's the phone, the integration with my other products, and there's the services. I started out using Android and hated iPhones back in the HTC one days. But there's no phone you could put in my hand that has the quality, innovation, and ability of the iPhone. Everyone else is just playing catchup and slapping a few gimmicks on it to try and makeup for the mountain of shortfalls. I keep wanting to go back to android and each time I try it just underwhelms and I'm back. The problem with apple is they've done things so well we take it all for granted, like the Messages app, that until you live without it for a week or two you don't really notice it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)