Apple Says a ‘Fix’ for iPhone XS/XR Beautygate Controversy Is Coming

Iphone Xs Beautygate Credit: YouTube / iJustine
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Apple is apparently planning on fixing the aggressive skin smoothing behind the “Beautygate” controversy in iOS 12.1, according to a new report.

That interesting fact was buried in The Verge’s review of Apple’s iPhone XR handset, which launches on Friday. The publication notes that the iPhone XR produces selfies that are similarly as smooth as the iPhone XS and XS Max, which prompted it to ask Apple about the issue.

“Apple told me that the forthcoming iOS 12.1 update, currently in public beta, will address the issue of the front camera appearing to smooth out skin by picking a sharper base frame for Smart HDR,” The Verge’s Nilay Patel wrote, adding that he wasn’t able to test it out yet.

The Beautygate controversy kicked off when users began complaining that their selfies looked a bit too smooth or artificial — almost as if there were a covert “beauty filter” automatically applied to images taken with the front-facing camera.

Iphone Xs Beauty Gate
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To be clear, there is no such beauty filter. The smooth and glow-y skin effect is likely the result of aggressive noise reduction, as well as how Smart HDR chooses to merge exposures.

These two factors result in photos that have more detail in highlights and shadows, but with a distinct smooth-looking effect because the light isn’t as harsh across the images.

Of course, confirmation bias may also play a role. Earlier this month, YouTuber Jonathan Morrison posted a picture that he said was taken with the Pixel 2. As you might expect, a swarm of Pixel fans praised the camera and said it was far better than the iPhone XS lineup — until Morrison revealed that the selfie was, in fact, taken on an iPhone XS Max.

Photographer and app developer Sebastian de With, who cast light on the mechanisms of the iPhone XS camera, noted that Apple could change how selfies turn out if enough people are unhappy about how they look.

Still, while Beautygate was an objectively exaggerated and misunderstood controversy, Apple is still taking the opportunity to “fix” it.

Presumably, by adjusting the Smart HDR’s algorithms to choose a sharper base frame, the system will result in selfies that look much closer to what previous iPhones and current Android devices output.

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