In Depth

Apple has 800 engineers working on iPhone cameras

US television interview reveals the sheer size of Apple's camera division – and what it means for future iPhones

An episode of US television news-magazine 60 Minutes has revealed that Apple has over 800 engineers working solely on the camera used on the iPhone.

Speaking to the show's host Charlie Rose, Apple's Senior Director of Camera Hardware Graham Townsend revealed how important the iPhone 6S camera is to Apple, highlighting how the company has over 800 people working on this one area of iPhone production, as well as a manufacturing process that requires over 200 parts to make each camera module.

The unit is so complex that "To capture one image, there's actually 24 billion operations going on," said Townsend.

Business Insider highlights one particularly intricate element of the iPhone camera – the way it counteracts the shaky hands of users.

"Inside the camera are four tiny wires, each half the width of a human hair. The four wires create a "microsuspension" of the camera parts that can absorb the shaking from hands to get a steady shot." 

The Verge said that the interview touched on a number of wide ranging subjects, though "not very hard hitting" ones. However, the camera revelation is interesting. "Apple's competitors certainly conduct many of those same tests, but the sheer size of Apple's camera team shows you how high up on the priority list it's risen."

When the iPhone 6S was introduced, its camera jumped up to 12-megapixels over the 8-megapixels Apple previously offered in its top-line handset, as well as a flash that reacts to surrounding light levels and 4K video.

What the news of Apple's heavy investment in camera engineers means for the iPhone 7 remains unclear, and there was no mention of the upcoming handset in the interview. One of the more recent rumours is that the next phone could have a dual-camera setup, meaning genuine optical zoom can be introduced over the fuzzy digital zoom currently used on the 6S.

Apple will be the subject of another in-depth US television programme on Friday night, when CBS will cover accusations that Apple avoids tax on overseas revenues. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the 60 Minutes interview that the accusations were "total political crap." The Financial Times reports that the European Commission has recently extended its probe into Apple's dealings with the Irish government over tax.

Apple opens 'secret lab' in Taiwan to develop new screens

15 December

Apple has allegedly opened a new, secretive laboratory in northern Taiwan, dedicated to developing new screens and displays.

Sources close to Apple told Bloomberg that they had knowledge of a facility in Longtan which has at least 50 engineers working on new screens for products such as the iPad and iPhone.

The building, at Longtan Science Park, has no exterior logos or signage indicating it belongs to Apple. But inside, a receptionist sits in front of a large Apple logo-emblazoned wall and workers with Apple ID badges have been seen outside the facility on cigarette breaks. 

Apple wouldn't provide Bloomberg with details about the facility and a spokesperson from their Cupertino base declined to comment.

According to the sources, Apple has recruited staff from Au Optronics and Quallcomm to develop the new displays. The aim is to create parts that will make their products thinner, lighter, more energy efficient, and to improve the quality of their displays.

Apple's ability to consistently deliver new, thinner and better looking devices has driven $178 billion in annual sales of the iPhone and iPad, they also add.

The California-based tech giant could be working on the development their own displays to buck their current reliance on third parties such as Samsung, LG and Sharp providing them with components.

The engineers could be working on new versions of the liquid-crystal displays currently used in the iPhone, but the most tantalising suggestion is the facility is being used to develop the OLED displays rumoured to be coming to the iPhone in a few years.

Apple is looking to ditch LCD displays and introduce OLED screens on the 2018 model year iPhone, according to 9 to 5 Mac. OLED screens benefit from much greater contrast over LCD displays, as they only illuminate to display necessary colour, with the rest of the screen area staying black. Not only are they much more colourful and sharper, they are also more energy-efficient, as they illuminate less of the screen and when introduced are expected to increase the battery life of the iPhone.

Recommended

‘Hey Siri, what products will Apple announce at its next event?’
Apple’s ‘Spring loaded’ event will be held on 20 April
Business Briefing

‘Hey Siri, what products will Apple announce at its next event?’

Bitcoin explained: what is it and how can you buy one?
Bitcoin
In Depth

Bitcoin explained: what is it and how can you buy one?

UK’s economy grew by 0.4% in February as EU exports rebound
The UK’s construction sector grew by 1.6% in February 2021
Business Briefing

UK’s economy grew by 0.4% in February as EU exports rebound

Who are the richest people in the world?
Jeff Bezos
In Focus

Who are the richest people in the world?

Popular articles

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?
Night Tube Sadiq Khan
In Depth

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?

Laurence Fox to Count Binface: the most colourful London mayor candidates
Count Binface
Behind the scenes

Laurence Fox to Count Binface: the most colourful London mayor candidates

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 May 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 May 2021