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iPhone 3GS secretly capable of 1080p video?

updated 12:00 pm EDT, Thu August 20, 2009

iPhone 3GS May Have 1080p

Despite Apple's claims to the contrary, a test by a forum member at Weiphone suggests the iPhone 3GS may already have enough performance to smoothly play full HD video. By manually copying over videos using file transfer apps on a computer and the iPhone, the community member says he could play up to a 1080p (1920x1080) clip at 30 frames per second at up to a 35Mbps without any lag or stuttering. Although they don't show in the official iPod app, they work using Apple's built-in video player when called by a third-party program.

The playback is potentially sensitive to problems depending on the way the video was encoded but can support many clips encoded in H.264, including podcasts listed at the iTunes Store.

Such performance implies that Apple is intentionally limiting the 3GS to the same 640x480, 1.5Mbps video of the first two iPhone generations despite having the potential to support HD. It appears to confirm a previous device teardown that showed that, by itself, the Samsung ARM chip could decode 720p smoothly at least when running at its full clock speed. Apple downclocks the processor to 600MHz for heat and possible battery concerns but may have the help of the PowerVR SGX graphics core to assist in decoding clips.

What motivation Apple would have to do so isn't evident, but the limitations likely stem from the potential impact on battery life and free space. HD video typically requires much more processing power than standard definition footage and consumes much more space: even at iTunes' typical lower bitrates, a 45-minute TV show in 720p uses about 1.5GB of space. A 1080p version scaled upwards in bitrate would use more than double that amount.

Apple's video cables are also currently limited to component-out for HD instead of the HDMI format usually preferred for external video out.

If officially unlocked, the feature would nonetheless put the iPhone 3GS above even handsets that are known to officially support playing HD video natively, such as the 720p-capable Samsung's i8910 (Omnia HD). It would also give a likely third-generation iPod touch a potential advantage over the Zune HD, whose signature feature is an NVIDIA Tegra processor that supports 720p video without affecting battery life. [via iLounge]



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. ebernet

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2003

    +1

    Just to clarify...

    I have a bunch of my ripped DVDs encoded using Handbrake at the full resolution of the DVDs, for example, 853 x 480 for one of them. The iPhone (and iPod Touch) 1st and 2nd gen will certainly play content that is larger than 640 x 480. Whether it can got to 720 tall I do not know, but full DVD quality is certainly attainable.

  1. ebernet

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2003

    -1

    Just to clarify...

    I have a bunch of my ripped DVDs encoded using Handbrake at the full resolution of the DVDs, for example, 853 x 480 for one of them. The iPhone (and iPod Touch) 1st and 2nd gen will certainly play content that is larger than 640 x 480. Whether it can got to 720 tall I do not know, but full DVD quality is certainly attainable.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -4

    does it matter?

    If the screen isn't capable of 1080p, does it matter that the software can play it?

  1. TiberiusMonkey

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008

    +1

    RE: Does it matter.

    All Touches and iPhones can be plugged into a TV Testudo.

  1. Super Glitcher

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Aug 2003

    +3

    derr

    1080p on a device with limited disk space like the iPhone and slow @$$ transfer times over USB2 make it completely impractical - anyone who'd go to the trouble to do it is likely just showing off...

    I stream 1080p from a mac pro to a 360, that's far more practical, but still not necessary - even on a 50" panel it's still tough to tell 720 from 1080

    I don't get this fascination with 1080, it's overkill. 720 is pa-lennty for most people running HD panels and everyone on mobile devices -don't see that changing for at least some years, a generation of disk technology and of wireless. Then you'll all be streaming it anyway.

    Some people are too concerned with big numbers if you ask me :-\

  1. TiberiusMonkey

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008

    +1

    RE:derr

    Ha, no idea why I got marked down for answering a far simple question with a quick answer.

    Also, yes Super Glitcher I agree, I stick with 720 when it comes to having to download something, although I'll use 1080p for a BD or PS3 game. Even then, I really don't ever see a difference.

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