Apple Studio Display Runs Full Version of iOS 15.4
The Apple Studio Display runs a full version of iOS 15.4, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has highlighted.
In System Information, under "Graphics/Displays," the Studio Display's software can be seen, showing that it runs "Version 15.4 (Build 19E241)." This is the exact same build number as iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4, indicating that the Studio Display runs the full version of iOS.
The Studio Display contains an A13 Bionic chip, the same chip from the iPhone 11 lineup, 2020 iPhone SE, ninth-generation iPad, to support its 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front-facing camera with Center Stage and six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio. While the presence of the A13 chip indicated that the display likely ran a variant of existing Apple software, in much the same way that the HomePod and HomePod mini run a version of tvOS, the device's exact software was unknown until now.
Yesterday, the first reviews of the Studio Display were released, with a common complaint among reviewers being that the built-in webcam's image quality ranges anywhere from an "old BlackBerry" to downright "awful" in their hands-on testing. In his detailed review of the Studio Display, Gruber said that the camera is "crushingly disappointing" and "astonishingly poor," with the image being "terrible" and Center Stage being "glitchy."
Even without harsh sunlight, all images from the Studio Display camera, in all lighting conditions, are grainy, lacking in contrast, and make skin tones look cadaveric.
... How can the image quality from the camera on a $1600 display be so much worse — laughably worse — than the image quality from a $600 iPad Air that uses the exact same camera hardware? Let alone comparing it to the front-facing camera on the $430 iPhone SE, which makes the Studio Display camera look like a toy. And we waited years for Apple to ship this display. Again, it's usable. All sorts of people use way worse cameras for videoconferencing every day. But this image quality is embarrassing from a company that considers itself the leading camera company in the world... I expected to be impressed by the Studio Display camera. Instead, I'm baffled. I don't understand how this shipped.
It gets even worse. The Center Stage feature on the Studio Display should be called Off-Center Stage. Move around a bit or turn your head to the side and you get framed off to the side, even though you're sitting directly in front of the center of the display. It takes up to 5 seconds for Center Stage to catch up and re-center you in the frame, which it does slowly and sheepishly, as though it's embarrassed...
Apple told reviewers that it "discovered an issue where the system is not behaving as expected" and will be "making improvements in a software update." Apple did not specify what "improvements" will be made, and no timeframe was provided for the update. Gruber concluded:
The Off-Center Stage thing is obviously a bug, and I expect that to be fixed. The overall image quality, I'll bet, can and will be improved to some degree via software updates, but I'll be surprised — happily surprised, but surprised — if a software update can turn this camera into something Apple should be proud of. Maybe, though, given that it's the same camera hardware as the front-facing camera on the new iPad Air and last year's iPad Pros. But I'm not holding my breath.
Gruber later posted an update saying he has heard that the "the image quality problems really are a software problem, not hardware — a bug introduced at the last minute — and a future software update might not merely somewhat improve image quality, but raise it to a level commensurate with the iPad models equipped with the same camera."
With the confirmation that the Studio Display runs iOS, Apple's planned update to improve the quality of the webcam will presumably come as part of an iOS update. Other information about how software updates for the Studio Display work is as yet unknown.
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