The iPhone XS has a couple of controversies surrounding it at the moment, but none have been as divisive as BeautyGate. Some say the phone has a secret beauty mode which is being forced upon its users, while others say this is just a software quirk.
Here to provide an in-depth look at the controversy is developer Sebastiaan de With, best known as the person behind photography app Halide. He’s written a long blog post which explains just what is going on with the iPhone XS’ cameras and why photos are turning out so different from the iPhone X when the two practically share the exact same photography setup.
Turns out, Apple has made some huge changes on the software level this year, leading de With to call the iPhone XS’ module “a whole new camera.” The device relies on computational photography to click photos, powered by the all-powerful A12 Bionic processor and brand new image signal processor (ISP).
The iPhone XS’ camera starts snapping images even before the shutter is pressed. Once the picture is taken, the smartphone combines a series of underexposed images, overexposed images, and images taken at fast shutter speeds. All this is combined to give way to a single image which has a high dynamic range and more details.
iPhone XS BeautyGate Reasons
However, this process has given rise to what is popularly known as BeautyGate. The issue here is that the iPhone XS’ snapper needs to click a lot of photos very quickly. It thus favors faster shutter speeds, which means less light is coming in. Apple makes up for this by increasing the ISO AKA the sensitivity to light. However, the drawback here is that the higher the ISO, the more the noise.
Apple is trying to compensate for the higher noise levels with more aggressive noise reduction. This is is what’s leading to such smooth-looking skin. It’s also reduced sharpness a bit thanks to HDR. The tool merges exposures, getting rid of sharp light/dark contrasts in places where light hits the skin. This is what’s giving selfies a slightly softer look.
In conclusion, it seems like Apple isn’t actually trying to force a beauty mode on unsuspecting iPhone XS owners. The smoothness and softness is a byproduct of big changes it’s made on the software level. Still, it would be nice if it allowed people to choose between higher noise levels and realistic-looking skin or lower noise levels and unrealistic-looking skin.