These days it seems like just about every smartphone player worth its salt is devoting time and resources to upping their camera game, and Apple is no exception. A new report from 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman points to snippets nestled within iOS 7 beta builds that seem to indicate the company is working on a camera feature called “Mogul” that will let users record video at 120 frames per second.
That’s a considerable leap over what the iDevices are currently able to capture. Apple says the iPhone 5 can record video at “up to 30 frames per second,” and a wrap-up slide from Apple’s 2013 WWDC presentation confirmed that iOS 7 would effectively push that limit to 60 frames per second. The end result? Crisper, smoother video. A quick look at all the 120fps videos on YouTube (not perfect comparison, I know) should give you a hint of what iPhones may eventually be capable of.
Don’t expect to see the feature go live any time soon, though. Despite their coaxing, the 9to5 team wasn’t able to get the feature running on current generation Apple hardware, which they’re taking as a sign that Mogul is actually meant for a forthcoming version of the iPhone.
By the time Mogul sees the light of day, Apple’s rivals may be well ahead of it in terms of camera prowess. Samsung’s Galaxy S4, Nokia’s Lumia 920, and HTC’s One are the latest in a growing pool of smartphones that let users shooting slow-motion video (the two former records at 120fps, but HTC doesn’t specify). And then there are devices like Nokia’s Lumia 1020, which sports a tremendous 41-megapixel camera sensor and, if it’s anything like the 808 PureView that came before it, can capture some really stunning video.
So sure, if the report pans out and Apple really does push the so-called Mogul feature out the door someday, they’ll be walking down a path already traveled by its rivals. I suspect that won’t present too many issues for Apple, though; iOS aficionados will latch onto it just as they did with the similarly late Panorama feature in iOS, and Mogul may wind up making slow-motion video a must-have for smartphones going forward. (Seriously, I’m just waiting for someone to whip up a Vine or Instagram knock-off devoted to slow-mo clips of people tripping over things.)
The sheer amount of mobile camera options means that consumers will ultimately be able to capture moments more effectively with their iPhones or Lumias. However, the smartphone camera war is already weighing heavily on some camera manufacturers, which are struggling to keep their businesses in order while high-powered camera phones devalue the venerable point-and shoot.
Nikon is a great example, according to Bloomberg. Company president Makoto Kimura hinted at the possibility of a “non-camera consumer product” to help offset flagging point-and-shoot camera sales. Some have already taken that to mean that Nikon is mulling a smartphone. It used to be that imaging innovation trickled down from devoted camera companies to the rest of the consumer gadget market. How long until things start flowing in reverse?