Entries tagged as iPhone 5

How loud is the camera if an iPhone's from Korea or Japan?

Measuring the camera shutter sound of the iPhone 4S with the iPad Pro 9.7"

In Korea or Japan, loud camera shutter sounds from smartphones are a fact of life due to the voluntary standards for the camera-equipped cellphones meant to ease privacy concerns. Issues had already been raised as far back as 2001 in Japan and Korean government started taking action in 2003. These standards call for a mandatory shutter sound of certain loudness even in silent mode. In Korea, sound level is set to be between 60 and 68dBA.

Note that this is not mandated by law in either countries, so there is no legal repercussion for not honouring the standards. Still, it poses an annoyance in many legitimate circumstances, something that users in other countries would never encounter. Imagine that the phone will make a loud sound whenever you take a photo or a screenshot(!) even in silent mode. There are 3rd party camera apps that try to avoid the sound, but for the screenshots you would ultimately need a system-level hack. This means jailbreaking or finding an obscure bug/feature.

I noticed that this problem has been exacerbated on the iPhone 7 series because it is using two speakers instead of one. You'll now get to hear the noisy shutter sound even louder, in stereo. To get an objective picture of the situation, I brought out my iPhone collection for a round of sound level measurement for the camera shutter sound. Here's how they stacked up.

Camera Shutter Sound
The test was done by measuring the sound using the "Decibel 10th" app on the iPad Pro 9.7". Tested iPhone was 40cm(16") away from the iPad's microphone. To human ears, an increase of 10dB is felt as the sound being twice as loud. This means that the integrated speaker got roughly two times louder since iPhone 5 onwards. Incidentally, this would've been necessary to meet the aforementioned Korean standards. The 60dB level must be attained at a distance of 1m(3.28'), and there is a decrease of 8dB for moving from 40cm to 1m. Taken together, it becomes obvious that the iPhone 4S and earlier models wouldn't be loud enough.

And as expected, iPhone 7 I bought in Japan was the loudest, even though the second speaker was facing away from the iPad's microphone. One consolation is that the sound heard by the subject isn't much louder than before; you only hear it as being much louder because the second speaker is facing you.

Meanwhile, the iPhones bought in the United States turned out to be relatively quieter even when the volume was set to the loudest. In fact, my iPhone 7 Plus had a very quiet shutter sound even though music playing on it was quite loud in contrast. This shows that Apple is intentionally boosting the speaker output beyond normal levels when the shutter sound is made on the Korean and Japanese models. It would be difficult for those who haven't used these models to realize how loud they are.

If you want to hear the difference for yourself, here's the video of the test that the results are from. If anyone had been wondering why I still try to get iPhones from the United States, this should be the answer.

Comparing iPhone 7 camera with older gen (Indoors)

Continuing from the last post, let's look at the indoor performance of the front camera. I took photos of a table in the living room where the kids have built what's essentially a toy village with Lego blocks. It should serve to show differences in colour reproduction, if any.

Front camera - iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7

Original Photo ISO Shutter Speed
iPhone 7 80 1/30
iPhone 6S+ 32 1/17
iPhone 6+ 64 1/30
iPhone 5S 80 1/30
iPhone 5 64 1/30
iPhone 4S 160 1/60
iPhone 4 125 1/60
With the exception of iPhone 4, the colours look more or less correct, which is good. Also, the iPhone 7 did manage to take clear photos when the objects are closer, so it's doing a good job as its intended role of a selfie camera. 6S Plus result is fuzzier, but this time it can be attributed to a slight camera shake and would likely be nearly as good as 7 but with less pixels otherwise.

Next up, I took shots of the same scene with the rear camera, once with good indoor lighting and once with faint indirect lighting so I could observe how much noise can be seen for each cases. For the darker shots, I tried to have the camera maintain at or close to ISO 800 to make a close comparison.
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Comparing iPhone 7 camera with older gen (Outdoors)

Sunset - iPhone 7 - October 4, 2016

It is pretty safe to assume that the latest iPhone has the best camera in general. The tradition continues with iPhone 7, which allows me to take impressive photos like the one you see here. But to truly appreciate the improvements, a good round of comparison is in order.

First, let's look at the basic specifications as reported by the EXIF data. For the rear camera, we have these values:
Device Focal Length
35mm Equiv.
iPhone 7 3.99 28 1.8 4032x3024
iPhone 6S+ 4.15 29 2.2 4032x3024
iPhone 6+ 4.15 29 2.2 3264x2448
iPhone 5S 4.15 29 2.2 3264x2448
iPhone 5 4.12 33 2.4 3264x2448
iPhone 4S 4.28 35 2.4 3264x2448
iPhone 4 3.85 35 2.8 2592x1936
iPhone 3GS 3.85 35 2.8 2048x1536

And for the front camera:
Device Focal Length
35mm Equiv.
iPhone 7 2.87 32 2.2 3088x2320
iPhone 6S+ 2.65 31 2.2 2576x1932
iPhone 6+ 2.65 31 2.2 1280x960
iPhone 5S 2.15 31 2.4 1280x960
iPhone 5 2.18 35 2.4 1280x960
iPhone 4S 1.85 35 2.4 640x480
iPhone 4 3.85 35 2.4 640x480
Last year's rear camera was mostly about the increased pixel count; with the quality improvement taking a back seat. Front camera did jump out of the 1.2-megapixel hole, which was overdue. This year, enhancing the image quality is back in focus. The sensor can now capture on a much wider colour space (DCI-P3, a.k.a. Display-P3, instead of the traditional sRGB), and the wider aperture on the new rear lens (f/1.8, up from f/2.2) should allow for lower noise and brighter night shots. Meanwhile, the front camera can now take 7-megapixel photos.
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Performance of iPhone 7 compared to older iPhones

iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7 readying to run GeekBench 4

Smartphone software and hardware become more sophisticated by the year. So a new device is expected to be faster than its predecessor. But it's a balancing act of both raw performance and power consumption. The A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 series has four cores - two high-performance cores and two power-efficient cores to do just that. It's supposed to be the fastest A-series chip yet while not impacting battery life. So how does it really do on performance? Apple claims up to 2 times faster for CPU and 3 times faster for GPU compared to 2 generations ago (iPhone 6 series). Let's see if that's true.

GeekBench 4.0.1 results for iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7
GeekBench 4 Result Details: 4S | 5 | 5S | 6+ | 6S+ | 7

GeekBench has been a standared in benchmarking CPU performance across many platforms. The 4.0.1 version that came out recently runs on iOS 9 or later, so I can only compare up to iPhone 4S. Still, you can see that iPhone 7 does indeed perform well. It is about 2.1 to 2.2 times faster than iPhone 6 Plus, and 35 to 40 percent faster than iPhone 6S Plus. We no longer have 2x performance jump like back in iPhone 5 - 5S transition, but things are in line with Apple's claim here.
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Dealing with iPhone 7's missing headphone jack

The Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter bundled with iPhone 7

Given that iPhone's predecessor is iPod the digital music player, the listening experience is still a big part of the device for many people. So the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack was bound to be controversial, despite the fact that Apple has provided many options to mitigate the inconvenience.

EarPods from iPhone 5 (left) and iPhone 7 (right), with the adapter at the far right

Primarily, the EarPod earphones bundled with iPhone 7 use Lightning connector, giving you at least one native solution. Along with that is a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter that you can use with any other regular earphones and headphones. Because Lightning port is fully digital, the both the adapter and the earphones have DAC modules inside to provide analog audio output. Unless you must charge the phone at the same time, you're not worse off than before as long as the adapter works as intended.

On a side note, providing both a DAC-equipped earphone and an adapter resulted in sacrificing the plastic case for the earphones, likely because of costs. The case is now simply a throwaway paper packaging.
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