According to Bloomberg, Apple’s (AAPL) latest public filings reveal it has acquired a UK photo-technology startup, Spectral Edge. The court filings indicate Apple corporate lawyer Peter Denwood is the director of Spectral Edge. Therefore, the documents suggest that the company is now under the control of the iPhone maker. Spectral Edge is a spin-off from the machine learning research wing at the University of East Anglia, noted Bloomberg.
According to MacRumors, Spectral Edge has a computational algorithm that can accentuate the quality of low-light smartphone images. The startup’s technology can blend shots from an infrared lens with standard lens shots to improve image quality, added MacRumors. We can understand that Apple’s main reason for acquiring Spectral Edge is to get top-notch photographic quality for its iPhones. The machine learning abilities of Spectral Edge will be of particular importance to the “night mode” photography of iPhones. The phones already feature specs such as Deep Fusion and Smart HDR for image enhancements. Spectral Edge’s technology could be another addition to the camera app in iPhones, noted 9to5Mac.
Jay Peters from The Verge, however, also indicated a different reason for the acquisition. He wrote, “But sometimes, Apple acquires companies just for the talent, and perhaps Apple has put the Spectral Edge team to work on some other photo-enhancing project.”
High-end photography is a critical differentiating factor for smartphones
Features are a hot battleground for smartphone companies. Foldable screens, 5G networking, 3D scanning, holographic screens, and in-built cameras are some of the major differentiating factors. According to a survey by Global WebIndex in December 2018, 35% of US and UK smartphone users felt that the camera is the most desirable spec among all. Meanwhile, 51% preferred more storage, while 48% looked for better charging features.
The global smartphone market is heading for a slowdown. Therefore, manufacturers depend on high-end specs to boost sales. In June, TeleAnalysis cited Counterpoint Research to validate this point. It wrote, “With smartphone sales declining globally over the last few quarters, six consecutive quarters to be precise, vendors are desperately looking at improving specs to boost future growth, and on top of their agenda is to improve the smartphone camera capabilities, a new research by Counterpoint Research has said.”
There is no end to innovation when it comes to digital photography. Smartphone makers have tried almost everything to enhance cameras and image quality. However, the phone manufacturers are now mostly focusing on computational imaging. TechCrunch wrote in October 2018, “Google, Samsung and Apple are increasingly investing in (and showcasing) improvements wrought entirely from code. Computational photography is the only real battleground now.”
Google is a pioneer when it comes to computational photography. For its Pixel smartphones, the company recently launched Night Sight, which blends long exposure with machine learning algorithms for enhanced color balance.
Apple wants to boost iPhone business through AI photography
Apple is leaving no stone unturned in reviving its iPhone business. By purchasing Spectral Edge, the company intends to leverage Spectral’s high-end photography tech to boost its iPhone demand. In July, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that 2020 iPhones would feature 3D-sensing rear camera setups, reported MacRumors.
Apple could use Spectral’s capabilities for other projects
Chris Davies from SlashGear has pointed out a notable aspect of the Spectral deal. He said Spectral’s machine learning capabilities are versatile, and can also be used in drones and automated cars. We know that Apple is working on driverless vehicles, and Spectral Edge’s technology could play a role there.
Apple is also betting big on its AR glasses, and is likely to release them by 2023. The company’s latest acquisition has unique capabilities that can be used to give an edge to its highly ambitious AR headsets.
Apple always has eyes on futuristic tech and keeps acquiring smaller companies specializing in that technology to stay ahead of the curve. In October, Apple acquired iKinema, which specializes in games, VR, and motion pictures. Apple’s motive behind acquiring iKinema would be to enhance its AR tech capabilities.
We’ll be keeping tabs on news regarding Apple’s acquisitions to get an idea about the specs of its future products. Stay posted for more updates.