Apple's Next Big Advance In iPhone Photography Could Come From This Acquisition

Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Smartphone photography has grown leaps and bounds over the past several years, with flagship handsets these days wielding multiple camera sensors to take high quality shots. Software processing is important too, though. In that regard, Apple's acquisition of UK-based startup Spectral Edge Ltd. could give its future iPhone models a boost in photography performance.

That's important because photography has become the main battle in the smartphone wars. The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, for example, wield a triple lens system on the rear, consisting of a 12-megapixel ultra-wide (f/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view), wide (f/1.8 aperture), and telephoto (f/2.0) cameras.

Spectral Edge leverages machine learning to boost photography performance,. It was born out of research from the University of East Anglia, with technology that blends infrared images with a standard photo to produce a more vibrant snapshot.

Here's a recent demo of the company's technology in action... 

According to public filings in the UK that were viewed by Bloomberg, Spectral Edge recently appointed Apple's corporate lawyer Peter Denwood as director of Spectral Edge. The company's other advisers and board members were let go.

It's not clear how much of the startup's team will join Apple, or whether this is primarily a patent and technology grab. There's also no mention of the purchase price.

Whatever the case, Apple's interest in AI technology is obvious, as it is for many big tech companies. As it applies to photography, one of the benefits is being able to improve low light performance, where smartphone cameras (and cameras in general) tend to struggle. Apple, Google, and others have made some inroads in low light photography, but there definitely is still room for improvement.