iPhone XS Auto-Smoothing Selfie Feature Leads to Controversy


The iPhone XS debuted to praise, acclaim, and surprise as Apple unveiled its more aggressive push into turning the iPhone lineup into the go-to media consumption device for consumers and providing powerful photography and videography capabilities to boot.

Image via Apple.

Incorporating a new chip, a sleeker design, and all sorts of AI-powered tech, the XS does not shy away from its position as Apple’s apex smartphone but it is, nonetheless, no stranger to controversy.

A lot of smartphones these days are built with the social media user in mind and a lot of cameras and the tech around them seemed to be tweaked specifically for one particular type of photography: The “selfie.”

Love it or hate it, the selfie is such an integral part of smartphone photography that it is hard to imagine one without the other. Certainly the advent of smartphones didn’t invent the selfie, but they did take it to critical mass and smartphone manufacturers have not tired since in developing all sorts of things to make the world’s most awkward photography more appealing.

Apparently, though, the iPhone XS’s front-facing camera has a smoothing feature that is automatically applied to one’s selfie and this has users in an uproar as it is not only reflexive but cannot be turned off. Dubbed “beautygate,” the selfie smoothing capabilities of the iPhone XS have Apple scrambling to enable the feature to be turned off per reports from PetaPixel and others. Multiple users have reported the feature and the results are quite dramatic in difference.

As photographers, it seems like the XS is violating a cardinal rule: Don’t pre-edit my photographs. When we capture photos or video we typically want to be the person who decides to apply a filter and the like. The XS is taking this out of the purview of the user and doing it automatically and this needs to be a configurable feature. It’s just that simple.

That said, we expect there will be more stories like this in the future as AI and photography merge to create some Frankenstein-approach to ideal photographs. We’ve brought you tons of stories in the past year about how photography is doing everything from creating its own photographs out of whole cloth to judging photographers’ submitted work.

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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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