With iOS 17.2, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max users are able to record 3D spatial videos, which will be rendered for playback on the soon-to-be-released Apple Vision Pro headset.
However, on the iPhone 15 Pro, spatial video is limited to 1080p resolution at 30 FPS. However, there are already some tech spec upgrades swirling in the rumor mill that suggest Apple may be able to offer 4K spatial video quality with the iPhone 16.
The way spatial video recording works on the iPhone 15 Pro today is based on the layout of the rear triple-camera lens module. In spatial mode, the user must orient the phone horizontally. The Camera app captures landscape video simultaneously from the main and ultra-wide lenses. The two video streams are then combined to form a 3D video.
This is possible on iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max because the main and ultra-wide lenses are on the same plane, separated by a couple of centimeters horizontally but otherwise aligned. The centimeters of separation allows for enough parallax for the 3D depth effect to be realized.
The phone uses a central crop of the ultra-wide video to get the same frame as what the main camera sees. But on iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, while the main camera is a 48-megapixel sensor, the ultra-wide camera is only 12 megapixels. After cropping in on the 12-megapixel ultra-wide frame to match the main camera perspective, there is simply not enough resolution available to make a 4K video. 4K is equivalent to about 9 megapixels of resolution. This seems like the main reason why Spatial Video maxes out at 1080p today.
However, that may be set to change as soon as this fall with the iPhone 16. Numerous analysts have reported that the iPhone 16 Pro models will feature a 48-megapixel ultra-wide sensor. If the iPhone 16 can record full resolution video frames, so both the main and ultra-wide cameras capture 48-megapixels as raw input, producing 4K spatial video may be possible.
As it stands today, Apple might simply be taking in 4K streams from the two cameras to crop down to a resolution suitable for a 1080p final result. But if the iPhone 16 software could internally record dual 8K streams, using the full 48-megapixel sensors of both the main and ultra-wide lenses, it could ultimately produce 4K quality spatial videos.
It’s not a guarantee as we don’t know whether computationally the iPhone 16 chip will be powerful enough to do that, but it certainly seems plausible — and could very well be one of the motivations as to why Apple has opted to up the ultra-wide camera’s resolution for this upcoming generation.
Expanding spatial video support also seems to be a priority for the iPhone 16 lineup overall. Early leaks indicate that the base model iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus will feature a new rear camera layout, with both cameras positioned in a straight line, switching away from the current diagonal arrangement. This is essentially what the Pro models have today, just lacking the third telephoto lens (which is not used for spatial video capture).
As such, it seems all iPhone 16 models will be able to shoot in spatial … and, just maybe, the higher-end models can sport 4K spatial video quality as an additional pro perk.
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