iPhone XS front camera forces skin smoothing and makes photos appear unnatural

The camera on iPhone XS and XS Max has turned a few heads, thanks to the improved optics and the use of Smart HDR. One unannounced ‘feature’ found in iPhone XS is the use of skin smoothing. Skin smoothing and facial beauty filters are common place in smartphones nowadays, with Huawei, Samsung, Xiaomi, and dozens of other OEM’s offering this as a premium feature in their smartphones. As it turns out, Apple has added this as a fixed feature in iPhone XS and XS Max, with no way of turning it off.

What is surprising about this feature is that it was never announced on stage or on Apple’s website. Many people like to maintain their natural look in their photos, and not give a false perception of themselves on the internet. While face beauty is definitely a very popular feature among teens, young adults and for group selfies, the forced application of this can lead to some misleading photos. A post on the Apple subreddit contrasted the difference between the same spot of skin on an iPhone X and an iPhone XS, and it is apparent that the smoothing results in a soft look. This photo was taken using the front-facing camera on both phones.

iPhone XS Face Beauty Feature is a Staple to the Camera

Image Courtesy of the Subreddit Thread

The difference here is clear as night and day. While the feature is undoubtedly something people might appreciate and will use for places like Facebook and Instagram, not being able to turn this off or adjust its intensity is annoying. Many users, like yours truly, would not want to use image filtering like this as it results in loss of detail and is definitely not one of the reasons to use an iPhone’s camera. If such a fake and highly edited look is required, it is better to use something like a Samsung phone, which makes most photos look vivid and touched up thanks to the tons of filters and effects it offers in the camera app.

If you are using an iPhone XS or XS Max right now, you can try the following workaround:

After more thorough testing it seems that, at least on the back camera that turning off Smart HDR does seem to help a small amount. But there is still quite a bit of smooth present. The front camera seems to not be affected by this setting change. I would strongly advice not using HDR right now until Apple fixes these issues.

Apple has reached out to the original poster on Reddit that shared this issue and confirmed that they are working on a fix. It is expected that the fix might land in an iOS update, probably iOS 12.0.1