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One of the more whimsical features in Apple’s new iPhone 11 lineup is the ability to capture slow-motion video clips using the front TrueDepth camera, something that simply wasn’t possible on prior versions despite the otherwise great camera hardware.
When Apple introduced the feature at its event, Kaiann Drance, Senior Director of Product Marketing slipped in the word “Slofie” to describe the new feature, but this wasn’t just a throwaway line, as Apple also explicitly used the word at the close of the short video clip that Drance showed to demonstrate the “fun new feature.”
In fact, it appears that Apple is even more serious about using the new term. According to The Verge, Apple has actually applied for a U.S. trademark on the word “Slofie” — a move that would give the company control over how and when the word gets used.
So what is a ‘Slofie’ anyway?
To be clear, Apple is using the term specifically to refer to a new feature that’s now available on all of its 2019 iPhone models — the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max — that allow you to record 120 fps video from the front TrueDepth camera. The video is then slowed down to a normal frame rate, resulting in a smooth slow-motion effect.
Apple has supported slow-motion video capture on the rear cameras since the iPhone 5s debuted back in 2013, originally only at 720p/120fps and later bumping it up to 720p/240fps and 1080p/120fps with the debut of the iPhone 6, and then full 1080p/240fps when the A11-powered iPhone 8 and iPhone X debuted in 2017. Despite all of these advances, however, the front selfie camera was left out of the fun, even though we’re pretty sure that Apple’s more recent A-series chips should have had no problem handling it.
Apple’s choice to introduce this feature with the iPhone 11 exclusively seems to be primarily a marketing move, and with the company trying to coin a new term for it, it appears that it’s hoping to launch another Animoji-like social trend and make it a fun selling point for the new iPhone lineup.
The word is ‘Slofie’
Notably, Apple is explicitly branding only the one specific spelling of “slofie,” leaving out alternatives like “slowfie” or “slofi” or “slowfi” (the last of which just sounds like a bad wireless networking protocol anyway).
Apple’s move to trademark the word is most likely just a defence against other companies trying to use or abuse the phrase for their own apps or hardware, and it probably won’t actually be trying to limit the use of the word in popular culture. In fact, Apple will almost certainly want to encourage the use of the term, especially if it becomes tightly associated with the iPhone branding.
Similarly, Apple is probably hoping to have an excuse to prevent “slofie” apps from appearing on the App Store, since it’s definitely trying to promote the new feature as exclusive to the iPhone 11, and third-party apps appearing to support the feature might create confusion.
It’s also interesting that Apple is using the term to refer to the results of the slow-motion video capture feature, and not the app or the mode itself. The term appears nowhere in the iPhone 11 camera app or iOS 13.x, where the front-facing slow-motion video capture is still simply labelled “Slo-mo” the same as it’s always been.
With Apple’s choice to use the term as a clear branding in the video clip shown on stage last week, it also seems likely that it will appear in more ads in the coming weeks as it promotes the new iPhone lineup, in an attempt to show more of the fun and whimsical things users can do with the newest iPhones, and when people heard the word “Slofie” they’re hoping people will immediately associate it with the iPhone.