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BeautyGate: The iPhone XS vs the iPhone X selfies and whether faces are too smooth



iPhone XSJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Recent owners of Apple’s brand-new iPhone XS and XS Max are claiming that selfies taken with the new iPhones are making their skin look noticeably smoother than previous iPhones.

It’s something that Lewis Hilsenteger of the popular tech YouTube channel Unbox Therapy pointed out, too. And there’s no option to turn off the smoothing effect in the iPhone XS. Hilsenteger went as far as to call the effect “BeautyGate.” 

Indeed, the smoothing effect on selfies taken with iPhone XS phones is reminiscent of the “beauty modes” from phones like Samsung’s line of Galaxy phones. 

Apple blog Cult Of Mac is attributing the smoothing effects to the iPhone XS’ “noise reduction” that Apple briefly mentioned during its keynote event, which helps remove the grainy look in photos taken in darker environments by smoothing out details.  

Naturally, we tested this theory — that the new iPhones create smoother-looking selfies than previous iPhones — with an iPhone X and an iPhone XS Max, both of which were running the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12. We also made sure that Apple’s new Smart HDR feature was turned on in the iPhone XS Max. The Smart HDR feature is not available on the iPhone X. 

The results were definitive. The iPhone XS Max we used produced selfies that made our skin noticably smoother than selfies taken with the iPhone X. And we noticed the smoothing effects in selfies with plenty of light, too, which doesn’t align well with the theory that the iPhone XS’ noise reduction is the main cause for the smoothing effect.  

Check out the results for yourself:

So what’s going on with the iPhone XS selfies?

So what's going on with the iPhone XS selfies?

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

There’s no telling exactly what’s going on. The noise-reduction theory doesn’t stand well with our tests, as noise reduction shouldn’t take effect in a well-lit environment. However, it clearly has some effect in the brightly-lit selfies we took above.

Noise reduction isn’t usually a desired feature in a brightly-lit environment, as it usually blurs away details. Perhaps what we’re seeing it an overly aggressive noise reduction feature on the iPhone XS that activates itself even in a bright situation. 

Whether people like the effects is up to them. But perhaps what’s bothering some people is the fact that there’s no option to turn off the excessive smoothing effect.

We reached out to Apple to find out more, but the company declined to comment. 


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