iPhone XS selfie cam is so beautiful it spawned an ugly conspiracy theory

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iPhone XS beautygate
"Beautygate" – Does the front-facing camera of the iPhone XS smooth too many blemishes?
Photo: chemicalsam/Reddit

The iPhone XS and its front-facing camera are supposed to help its owners make better self-portraits. However, some think their iPhone selfies look better than they should.

Users are taking to internet forums like Reddit to question whether Apple added an undisclosed beauty filter to the front-facing camera on the iPhone XS and XS Max. Some are even posting side-by-side selfies taken with an XS and an older handset to make a case that the newest iPhone has more than deeper pixels and an improved portrait mode going for it.

One Reddit user even dubbed the emerging mystery “Beautygate.”

iPhone selfies never looked so good

The comparison photos show a blurring of blemishes, an added pinkish hue to skin and a slight painterly glow.

Explanations abound.

One reader thought the pink skin illustrates how the new sensor captures warmer colors. Or maybe it’s the smart HDR? One Reddit reader said they saw a slight difference in their selfie with the feature turned off.

iPhone selfies
The comparison that started a string of interesting theories on Reddit about the iPhone XS front-facing camera.
Photo: chemicalsam/Reddit

The beauty filter theory steadily gained traction on Reddit and the MacRumors forum over the last couple of days.

Lewis Hilsenteger, the host of YouTube channel Unbox Therapy, was one of the first to turn a critical eye on the XS’s front-facing camera.

“Is that my actual skin tone?” he asks someone off-camera in a recent video. “I look more alive than usual — less zombie-like. Not sure I trust it.”

Some of the banter on Reddit regarding the "Beautygate" topic related to iPhone XS selfie cam.
Some of the banter on Reddit regarding the “Beautygate” topic.
Screenshot: Reddit

Even as Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy line, have featured beauty filters with its smartphone cameras, Apple has stayed away from such gimmicks. There are plenty of apps that will filter out the ugly.

Why are iPhone XS selfies so good?

The pretty faces you didn’t know you had are likely the result of noise-reduction technology in the new phone.

Apple has answered the call for camera performance in low light. Digital noise occurs when the camera sensor attempts to record the available light. Sometimes, areas of a scene are so dark, the sensor picks up stray electrical signals, which wind up as flecks of colorful grain.

A photographer skilled in software like Photoshop or Lightroom can reduce the noise in an image with a series of sliders that adjust luminance and color details.

Noise-reduction tools remove those rogue pixels, but the results often leave a smooth or slightly softer finish to a photo.

The average iPhone user doesn’t necessarily do an elaborate post-production finish to their photos. Apple tries to solve this in-camera with a larger sensor and new image signal processor that is part of the A12 Bionic chip.

If Apple sees fit, it could quietly address those smooth selfies with an iOS update that dials back some of that softness and glow. Noise reduction in future iPhones will get better and your face will return to normal.

For now, just appreciate how good you look.