4K Video On The iPhone 6s Is The Future, And No One Will Care

4K Video on the iPhone 6s Is the Future, and No One Will Care

I've been pondering Apple's addition of 4K video recording on the new iPhone 6s and 6s plus. My feeling is simple, and applies to many facets of any new Apple product. Please, oh please. Do not let yourself be roofied by Apple ads and marketing-speak that will attempt to sell 4K as magical rainbow juice from above. Do not get sucked into the whirlwind of spectacular images Apple shows off.

If you're keen on 4K (aka Ultra HD), you've probably seen it in a television showroom or on some kind of high end video camera. The truth is, not many people have actually experienced watching 4K content, because there isn't much of it out there. But now anyone with a new iPhone 6s can make videos in this tantalising format. Should you care?

4K video is about four times the resolution of full HD, aka 1080p. That means a far more detailed image. That's nice, but it's also the very reason 4K has been so slow to catch on. It requires enormous bandwidth to stream, and requires costly new backend infrastructure to broadcast. 4K televisions have been paraded out for years, but few people buy them because of the added expense and the fact that there's just not much to watch in 4K! From a consumer standpoint, ultra high def remains a spectacle and not a standard.

But now the seal of 4K sits next to the most influential of electronics brands -- Apple. The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus brings ultra high def to your very own smartphone videos. They aren't the first to do this. Samsung's Galaxy line of phones has featured 4K shooting going back to 2014's S5. Few people gave a crap then and fewer do now.

I must admit, I find Apple's 4K inclusion a peculiar move. It's a tricky thing to explain to the average consumer, and that's going against Apple's credo of focusing on simple, clear features that you don't have to be a tech nerd to understand. How do you articulate the benefits of 4K to your parents? I imagine it would go roughly like this

"Hey Mum, check it out, the new iPhone can shoot 4K video."


"Yeah, it's got way better resolution!"

"What does that mean?"

"Like, better quality. Just look."

-- Mum looks at video on phone --

"It looks the same to me."

"Oh, well, you have to watch it on a 4K TV to really see the difference."

"A what TV? I don't think I have that."

"Oh. Well, at least shoot your own videos in 4K. It will look great on the 4K TV I plan to buy."

"OK I'll do that."

-- a week passes --

"Hi Son. My phone is telling me I'm out of storage. How do I fix it?

"Oh geez."

You get the point. It's just not something that is going to carry broad appeal. Regular people won't be able to spot the quality difference, especially when watching on their phone or social media where the added resolution is diluted by compression and tiny displays. They will only be saddled by the added storage demands of the larger 4K video files. We don't know the specifics of Apple's 4K file compression, so the extent of this issue can't yet be measured, but it's a likely outcome.

Here's a still frame from a piece of video shot in 4K. Directly below it is the same shot in mere 1080p HD.

4K Video on the iPhone 6s Is the Future, and No One Will Care
4K Video on the iPhone 6s Is the Future, and No One Will Care

They don't look that different! View this footage on a 60 inch 4K TV and the extra quality would come through, but most people view videos, especially home videos, in small sizes like this.

Still, 4K is the inevitable future of video in all its forms. There will come a day when every single video recording device shoots 4K, and everyone's TV will display it. So why not start now? It's harmless to include, if barely beneficial for most people. The biggest plus to shooting in 4K is so that 10 years from now, when everyone has 4K TVs, your videos can be played back and look really beautiful instead of dated. That's cool, but a fringe benefit at best.

It will be interesting to see how Apple markets this feature. We've already seen it mentioned in the ad they rolled out in the iPhone 6s keynote. It states, "the camera shoots 4K videos now, which changes how your movies look". That is a pretty damn vague way to hype the latest Apple Awesomesauce.

The truth is that 4K is a technical spec with more implications for cable companies than everyday consumers. 4K will not make your shitty home videos look much better than they do.



    Shooting 4k IS very different to broadcasting 4K... if you crop an image at 4K, you don't loose any resolution, when going back to HD or you tube etc... lets not forget that all macs are 2-5k in resolution on their screens anyway... so looking at 4K on your 4k or 5k iMac. will make a difference !

    As a filmmaker, I can tell you 4K is fine, but it's the bit rate that matters. I've been shooting in 4K on Red Cameras for years, but most films are shot on the more expensive Arri Alexa which is 2K (usually 1080p). As you can see in the images it's just a bigger frame size, so it could be 80K and with a low bit rate it's still terrible. Better to have quality lens and bit rate than a large frame size.

      this is spot on. no one ever discusses bit rate.

        Glass and sensor size are also factors! its why my DSLR of years back still looks better even though its 6 Megapixels, the lens and sensor size make up for any mega crap !

      You've got a good point and so for that reason I sure someone will develop an app that will allow for higher bit rates.

      RE: Bit Rates.

      I would _guess_ every time you download a song/tune from any one of the music sources, I'd be willing to bet you opt for the titles that were saved with the highest bit-rate. (if you or anyone else reading this does) Why? Metaphorically the same principal (I feel) should be applied here. If you we're listening to (99% of ALL digital music) that's nothing BUT 'bits' - we _still_ choose the higher standard? But, why?

      Why? Because while listening to those tunes on your (red-labeled) B***'s ear-buds, (which are OUTRAGEOUSLY over-rated, by the way, IF you're an audiofile) you're certainly _NOT_ going to be able to distinguish the difference if you opted to download the 256Kb/s version versus 384Kb/s version.

      Take that same tune, run it through a "real" stereo (which the Millennium generation was never exposed to, and unless they are an audiofile, STILL can't tell the difference but ONLY because they don't care. You're not being honest if you argue a good bit of digital music is (still!) stolen and the other half created their own at a bit-rate of 128Kb/s just to save what USED TO BE expensive storage.) ...and I'm confident you _will_ be able to (easily!) be able to distinguish that the higher bit-rate reveals SO much more (music/sound/etc) for your listening pleasure.

      "In The Beginning" We Weren't Supposed To Be Able To Hear The Difference" with lower bit-rated music, and the anti-4K folks are doing the same exact thing with 4K video vs 1080P: "Don't Get It, You Won't See the difference" - in the case of 4K video units. (Incidentally - is anyone/all of you aware, those 1080p "bits" are _STILL_ compressed (with loss) coming from the satellites? Even OTA's (some ARE lossless!) are a mere 720i/p, depending on the station. (Those of you reading this who do NOT know the difference, if your TV is "displaying" you're viewing 1080p, all that is - is called the "up-converting process." (Try it, try it with an OLD DVD - your TV will LIKELY still say you're watching 1080i/p.)

      Why UNDERCUT 4K such as you have? You _WILL_ (and DO) see the difference - and as far as I'm concerned with "content" - I just got off the phone with D****TV after purchasing a 4K unit, and the tech told me (and you should share this with your readers) there _will_ be an EXPLOSION of 4K content in 2016, at least available to D****TV customers. (No, I don't work for or have stock in them or AT*T)

      Ask how many readers still leave the "SD" channels in their line-ups/guides? I'd be curious. I would _THINK_ most leave OFF _ALL_ "SD" content anymore and the same following (and nicer _available_) content in 4K will have the same impact.

      Those who are anti-4K reading this are, I'm confident, are going to start the "You can't tell the difference" wars on this discussion. Please RE-READ THIS: I'm Comparing WHY you (most) choose the higher bit-rate music they either create or download when you can't hear the difference on your ear buds, but _WITH_ A NICE SET(!) you can indeed - Same Principle With 4K vs "HD": I'm NOT TALKING the junk they sell at W****RT, but "the good" stuff you find at a "real" A/V retailer/outlet _will_ demonstrate that you can INDEED notice not only a difference, but a significant one!

      I'm ready for this one - keep in mind my SPAM/ANTI-VULGAR language filters are IN PLACE. (Smile!) Happy New Year, And Thanks To D****TV for telling me 2016 is going to be slammed with 4K content, and _then_, much like I've turned off the "SD" listings, I'll have to shut-off/hide the "HD" views from my guide, next. One _minor_ note: This is _not_ the same as the hoop-dee-doo over 3D which (still!) never caught on, this is seeing/viewing a very pleasurable image. Even if the HD content left-over is there, it'll be "up-converted" just like the old days with SD-TV, SD-DVDs, etc..

      The ones that will respond (or argue) the most, are those who JUST purchased an HD TV (worse 3D) and are looking for ALL these postings telling you this sort of rhetoric they are regarding 4K UHD TV. (Or simply can't afford a new unit, YET!)

      Side Note: For Ya'll "Down Under" - it was interesting to see that my post was marked as having been sent on New Year's Eve. (When "here" - it's STILL the 30th of December and only close to "noon time."

      Last edited 31/12/15 3:47 am

    That fact that the new Apple TV isn't 4K make this all a bit pointless if we've got nothing to watch the videos on. The only way to play these 4K videos with the huge file sizes from the phone to the TV is via AIrplay.

      "That fact that the new Apple TV isn't 4K make this all a bit pointless".

      You beat me to it!

      Last edited 14/09/15 12:42 pm

        Yeah, that was a strange decision which flies in the face of their total ecosystem approach.

      Because adding an Apple TV to a TV makes it 4K

    I always think of Apple as an amazing marketing company that happens to sell electronics. Remember facetime? this was the big hype technology on the last IPhone even though it had existed for years prior and they are doing the same thing with 4K on this model.

    I would love to get into 4K but there is just not enough reason to spend the extra cash. TV and streaming services are broadcast at 1080P and even to use 4K as a gaming PC (which I am sure would be amazing) requires over $1K worth of graphics hardware to run it.

    4K with 16gb. That logic!

      16gb = 40 minutes of 4k!! Take out the OS and non-user accessible space and I'd say you're looking at a whopping 24 minutes of 4k footage before your phone is full!


        Even if you reduce to the minimum level YouTube recommends for 4K, you're still looking at 250MB every minute. 4K photos I can understand but 4K video on a mobile device with limited solid state storage is just stupid.

        and you'd have 40mins of 4k and nothing else? beside its prolly endup being like 8-10gb with the os

          Yeah I was generous and said 6.5gb for the OS but it could well be more!

          There was another article on gizmodo about how pointless the 16gb version is and how apple could easily do a 32gb version for less than $10 more but they choose not to because they want people to have a crap experience when they think they can "grab a bargain" with the entry model!!

            i agree. i dont even know why they would even make 16gb or anyone would buy them.

    I think 4k is better than that gimmicky 3D. Yes there is not a lot of content around as of yet. But I think people will adapt to it quickly.

      Hardly anyone will adapt to it if they can't view it. What can you actually get in UHD? A handful of movies and that's it?

        How is having more recording devices in 4k going to make that issue worse, and not better?

          Who said that?

            You said nobody will get 4k if they can't get content. This device will help people create content. Sure it wont be as high bitrate as professional / Hollywood 4k, but it'll still look better at 4k.

              Personally, having 4K video shot on my phone would not even factor into the choice of deciding whether to buy a 4K tv. This will make more content, sure, but not the kind of stuff you watch on your TV.

        Come next year there will be UHD blu-rays. Currently I have Netflix UHD plan and then there is YouTube. Sure the 4k offering is low, but it's building. I doubt we will ever see FTA in 4k though.

          We may never get 4K FTA but it will happen elsewhere. Japan is already playing with 4K and 8K over the air transmissions (satellite first I believe but also trialling normal terrestrial for 4K) and I think a French broadcaster pushed out a tennis event in 4K last year over the air using H.265 encoding.

    All irrelevant in Australia until we get fibre optic cable internet to our homes.
    But we get Fraudband uploading 360P until post 2025.

    *makes me depressed*

    Is it just me or do we have to wait until Gen X and Gen Y people get into power before we get anything remotely beneficial for our country with some form of long term vision?

      It sounds that way but most likely by then the long term vision from our Gen X and Y politicians will still not be a big enough step forward.. personally i think anyone who thinks the FTTN is/was a good option should not be put in charge of a post office let alone any aspect of our government......

      Nah, the Gen X'ers, especially those in politics or public service, seem to be thoroughly brainwashed into being mini babyboomers, so they wont help. Once Gen Y are old enough to be in power, they'll be outnumbered by youth anyway as our aging population will of died off, so their voice will never matter.

      Last edited 14/09/15 1:35 pm

    4K televisions have been paraded out for years, but few people buy them because of the added expense and the fact that there’s just not much to watch in 4K! From a consumer standpoint, ultra high def remains a spectacle and not a standard.
    Isn't that a similar story for many home theatre technologies though, including HD displays about a decade ago. Home Theatre has so far avoided the rapid upgrade cycles seen in the mobile and PC industries, resulting in new technologies taking a while longer to proliferate through the marketplace. Right now costs seem to be well and truly on the way down though, so I would expect that many consumers would at least be considering a UHD display if in the market over the coming year, which is probably more than can said for the market 12 or 18 months ago. Looking through a JB catalogue and certainly the term 'UHD' is popping up more and more and they wouldn't be pushing them if they were out of reach of most consumers.

    In a year from now it wouldn't entirely surprise me if people are suggesting that buyers don't go for the older HD displays. It'll be slow going, but Netflix and other streaming services at least allows consumers to access some UHD content without buyers having to go out and repurchase their favourite movies like they did when Blu-Ray came in to replace DVD. To that end, UHD almost has an advantage over HD in its early days due to new distribution methods making content delivery simpler and in many cases at no extra cost to what consumers are already paying.

    Last edited 14/09/15 3:48 pm

    Shooting 4k on a phone is over a year old on other prenium phones, yet a year later and the iphone 6s gets it and apple customers think there the first and apple invented it.

      Haha no they don't, they just didn't care about what other phones could do!

      Apple never claims to be the first to do something, but they are usually the first to make certain technologies become mainstream.

    I guess it had to happen eventually... The technically backward iPhone has always been playing catchup... Still 4k on a retina screen got to look hot right... 'Cos tim johnny said so..
    So once you've filled up your 16gb (sorry...9actual gb) with your 4k footage of the cat, you then have to wait hours to transfer it across the not so lightning lighting USB connection... And then wait hours for the video to be deleted from the phone.

    Me... I just slip in another 128gb card into my note4 and carry on... Oh and I get to view it on a gorgeous 2k screen too..

    Your article is a tad bit little out of date. 4K is required capture for some Netflix and some network shows. 4K TV's aren't that expensive. $1300 US. As a DoP recently explained to me your eye will adapt very quickly to 4K and you will look at regular HD like you looked at non HD very soon.

    Hehe, notice the parachute in the comparison pics above?

    I agree that apple them selves do not claim to have invented it but there consumers sure think so. I guess they are a cult following but there consumers must be ignorant if they seem to not care about what other companies are doing. I just hate it when bloggers use the word revolutionary to somthing apple have done when it has been around in other devices for a long time.

    I don't understand this article sorry. 4K will carry enormous appeal. Allowing users to create quality content for the future. It's the new standard and people are excited about being able to shoot with it.

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