We tested the claims that the iPhone XS selfie camera makes faces look too smooth — check out the results for yourself

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Recent owners of Apple’s brand-new iPhone XS and XS Max are claiming that selfies taken with the new iPhones are making their skin look noticeably smoother than previous iPhones.

It’s something that Lewis Hilsenteger of the popular tech YouTube channel Unbox Therapy pointed out, too. And there’s no option to turn off the smoothing effect in the iPhone XS. Hilsenteger went as far as to call the effect “beautygate.”

The smoothing effect on selfies taken with iPhone XS phones is reminiscent of the “beauty modes” from phones like Samsung’s line of Galaxy phones.

Apple blog Cult Of Mac is attributing the smoothing effects to the iPhone XS’ “noise reduction” that Apple briefly mentioned during its keynote event; it helps remove the grainy look in photos taken in darker environments by smoothing out details.

Naturally, we tested this theory – that the new iPhones create smoother-looking selfies than previous iPhones – with an iPhone X and an iPhone XS Max, both of which were running the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12. We also made sure that Apple’s new Smart HDR feature was turned on in the iPhone XS Max. The Smart HDR feature is not available on the iPhone X.

The results were definitive. The iPhone XS Max we used produced selfies that made our skin noticeably smoother than selfies taken with the iPhone X. And we noticed the smoothing effects in selfies with plenty of light, too, which doesn’t align well with the theory that the iPhone XS’ noise reduction is the main cause for the smoothing effect.

Check out the results for yourself:

In indoor office lighting, the iPhone XS Max undoubtedly smoothed out the face of my colleague Avery Hartmans. Shadows were also reduced, which could be a result of the new Smart HDR feature in the iPhone XS phones.

Avery Hartmans

The smoothing is less pronounced here, but it’s still there, especially with face sheen. The colours of my face and lips are less red and more uniform in the iPhone XS selfie, too.

Business Insider/Antonio Villas-Boas

Finally, my colleague Kif Leswing in the same office lighting setting. The smoothing isn’t as noticeable, but face sheen is greatly reduced.

Business Insider/Kif Leswing

In a dimly lighted room, Avery’s skin was again smoothed out and colours were evened out.

Business Insider/Avery Hartmans

The iPhone XS made my face look like it was airbrushed or painted here.

Business Insider/Antonio Villas-Boas

The same goes for Kif’s low-light selfies with the iPhone XS Max, where his face is smoothed out considerably compared to the iPhone X selfie. Face sheen is reduced and colours are more uniform in the iPhone XS selfie.

Business Insider/Kif Leswing

In a bright outdoor environment, Avery’s face was still smoothed out, which doesn’t align with the noise-reduction theory. Colours were also greatly evened out in the iPhone XS selfie.

Business Insider/Avery Hartmans

There’s a little bit of smoothing going on here, as well as some colour uniformity on the iPhone XS’ selfie.

Business Insider/Antonio Villas-Boas

The iPhone XS changed Kif’s face colour, and his skin was also a little smoother in the iPhone XS’ selfie.

Business Insider/Kif Leswing

So what’s going on with the iPhone XS selfies?

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

There’s no telling exactly what’s going on. The noise-reduction theory doesn’t stand well with our tests, as noise reduction shouldn’t take effect in a well-lighted environment. However, it clearly has some effect in the brightly lighted selfies we took above.

Noise reduction isn’t usually a desired feature in a brightly lighted environment as it usually blurs away details. Perhaps what we’re seeing it an overly aggressive noise reduction feature on the iPhone XS that activates itself even in a bright situation.

Whether people like the effects is up to them. But perhaps what’s bothering some people is the fact that there’s no option to turn off the excessive smoothing effect.

We reached out to Apple to find out more; the company declined to comment.

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