Um, Really? Apple Blames Users for iPhone 5's Purpley Pics

Um, Really? Apple Blames Users for iPhone 5's Purpley Pics

First, there was the whole iMaps disaster, then we heard that iPhone 5 phones were being sent that already had scuffs on them, and now it looks like the newest member of the iPhone family can't take photos in direct sunlight without a purple blob invading the picture frame.

What looked like a (possibly) isolated issue has now been confirmed by Apple HQ: yes, the purple flaring on photos is real, and it looks pretty ugly. Here you can see what direct sunlight looks on the newest iPhone vs. the iPhone 4S:


Apple has responded in its usual way, trying to make it sound as if this ugly photo effect is actually one of the iPhone 5's newest features! Here's the letter from Apple HQ to Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz:

Dear Matt,

Our engineering team just gave me this information and we recommend that you angle the camera away from the bright light source when taking pictures. The purple flare in the image provided is considered normal behavior for iPhone 5's camera. If you wish to reach me regarding this case number *********, please contact me at 1-877-***-**** ext. *******. I currently work Thursday-Monday: 7:00am - 3:30pm Mountain Time. If you reach my voicemail, please leave your name, phone number, case number and the best time to reach you. Email is ***********

AppleCare Support

In other words: it's not us, it' You're the the problem. Stop taking photos in sunlight! Stick to rainy silhouettes, move to the U.K. Otherwise, we can't really help you out here.

This wouldn't be such a big deal, but when you combine it with the apocalyptic Apple Maps, manufacturer defects and a supply chain shortage, it looks like Apple isn't enforcing the same quality control as they did when Steve Jobs was running the ship.

(Top photo from, bottom photo from

Source: Gizmodo

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  • Isn't the iPhone5 backing made of a different material then the iPhone4s? If so, then would light reflecting upon this new material possibly create a minor prism effect? (this is just my theory, if I'm wrong? I will accept that, provided someone else has a logical explanation) ....

    Never the less, with various complaints coming from Consumers who purchased the iPhone5 (& they're valid consumer complaints, in my opinion); I wonder if the iPhone5 was tested enough by APPLE. I will admit, it is a great improvement over the previous iPhone models; however it may take downloading some independently made apps in order to fine-tune this smart phone ...

    Question - could Apple be handling these Consumer Complaints better? I think so & maybe it wouldn't hurt for Tim Cook to issue a statement via video to reassure Consumers about what they can do to solve various complaints ...

    C J

  • It all boils down to the angle of a shot relative to the light source. A friend if mine just got a GSIII. I could replicate this same effect with that handset's lens. Or any consumer camera/camera phone. It's all in the way light and lenses interact.

  • I know this ultimately boils down to optics do's and don'ts but one has to understand that the average person will disregard the rules of photography and take photos with the sun straight ahead.

    As a good example I've just returned in the past week from a vacation in Barcelona (Spain) and took several photos of a cathedral with the sun more or less right over the said building low in the sky and its clearly visible in my shots. I used 2 devices, one a Samsung E575 pocket camera and my Samsung GS3 and both took really good pictures and dealt with the exposure very well without any discoloration.

    Now if I had just blown several hundred $/£ on a supposedly superior handset I guess I too would be rather annoyed at its performance compared to a £60/$75 pocket camera.

  • Most of us don't take pictures with all or part of the sun in them at mid-day, so I don't see this as an issue for most people. Typically, taking photos directly in front of the sun will cause a lot more contrast than is desired. As I said before, I was able to reproduce the effect to varying extents with 4s and LG Rumor Touch.

    The issue here is sapphire crystal's Index of Refraction. The IoR affects the wavelength of light as it passes through a material. The IoR varies from material to material.

    As the wavelength of light is decreased, a phenomenon called Chromatic Dipspersion occurs, causing white light to be "broken up" to varying extents.

    "Blue" light (which includes the purple wavelengths) travels more slowly through a given material than other wavelengths.

    The IoR of the Sapphire Crystal lens is probably around 1.7, while a typical glass lens would have an IoR of around 1.5. The higher the Index of Refraction, more chromatic dispersion may be observed.

    Because of the relatively high index of sapphire crystal to glass, such aberrations are to be expected in certain conditions- but the trade off is a much more scratch-resistant camera lens. That's a good trade for something that you keep in your pocket at all times.

    Sorry for the optics lesson. I just want todrive home how much of a non-story this is, if such a phenomena is occurring. To be honest though, I think this is just people VERY closely scrutinising (rightfully so) the smartphone they just dropped $200+ on.

  • Nice pictures Ben, but if you read the article and Apples response it mentions pictures taken with the sun 'directly in front' of the user which non of yours are so I can't discount the claims being argued.

    I know from experience if at all possible avoid such shots but sometimes its not that simple, you can't move a building or landscape to suit the time of day.

    It would seem that maybe the Sapphire lens coating is the cause and this really should have been picked up on during development. I guess Apple will be handing out free lens hoods this year instead of anti grip of death cases.

  • People often report bizarre issues with new glasses and contacts- even when the rx is identical or extremely similar.

    The truth is that people often distrust the new in favor of the old, and find problems where none really exist. Whether or not the lens in the i5 is more susceptible to "purple blur" is debatable. I believe the issue has to do with the so-called 'sapphire' lens. People picture sapphires as being bluish in color. This leads to the inference that the (clear) sapphire lens is causing a coloured blur in pictures.

    I noticed nothing at Castle Rock State Park this weekend when my wife and I went hiking, nor at Louden State park. Look me up on Instagram- @benkenon. I'm not trolling for followers, so don't feel obligated! Eleven of the first twelve pics are with i5.

  • Obviously Apple have acknowledged a problem on the iPhone 5. Whether it existed on the 4 or not, it doesn't appear to have been reported by customers in volumes to warrant Apple releasing a statement so its raised a few eyebrows.

    Its news, the same subject is being reported on dozens of non Android tech sites so no its not really a Android/IOS comparison.

  • @ SimonC: I was able to replicate the "purple blob" phenomenon with a 4s and my old LG Rumor Touch.

    Isn't this entire blog (much like drippler iPhone, etc.) dedicated to talking about the relative merits of Android and demerits of iOS? The iOS/Android fanboy comparison is implied in the tone of the article.

    I have little patience for either side of the debate, personally. I prefer iOS because my iPhone is ready out of the box, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to hack my phone or tablet. I am always stunned at the amount of virtual ink is wasted on people screaming at each other about their preferred mobile OS. I have made similar comments in the past on iOS blogs, and received a similar reaction.

  • @ Ben

    The comparison is between the iPhone 4 and 5.
    If the problem didn't exist on the iPhone 4 then Apple needs to look at why its happening.

    PS. Nobody mentioned any IOS/Android comparison, so get off your high horse.

  • I'm an optician. I owned the 4s and I have the iPhone 5. After nearly a week of taking pictures, I have yet to spot this purple glare some have complained about- except when I angle the phone in a certain way under a bright light source.

    The effect people are reporting is the same as that of a prism. Holding a Plano (non-Rx) lens at an angle induces a bit of prism, which bends the light as it passes through. Try it yourself.

    Prisms also refract white light into the full spectrum of colored light- just like atmospheric moisture and sunlight conspire to create rainbows. You will notice this effect to some extent with any and every lens you ever handle- glasses, cameras, telescopes, etc. it is 100% normal and unavoidable. Unless you invent some kind of invisible lens material, in which case you should quit the iOS/Android p*ss*ng contest, get off your computer, call Varilux and prepare to be a billionaire.

  • I hope this is just a software glitch. If this is an issue with the CMOS of the camera then Apple could have a new Antenne-Gate - or, umm, Purple-Gate..

    This is getting sad, really, oh yeah it's Apple.

  • @Nick - LOL! When you put it like that, I can totally understand why you hate them so much!

  • Maybe the camera is sooooo good and detailed it even catches the reflection of the saphire crystal lens... Did they test anything on the damned thing? And I thought the camera was supposed to be one of the things the iPhone was good at!

  •   16
    Deactivated Account Oct 2, 2012 Link to comment

    Well shitty camera app then ;D

  • Donsaibot, I didn't include them, put there are also photos where the purple glare peeks into the frame even when there's no sun in the frame.

  •   8
    Deactivated Account Oct 2, 2012 Link to comment

    So, the purple flare is normal behaviour. Which means, if you're *not* getting the purple flare, then your phone is, by definition, faulty, and you should return it and get a new phone that *has* the purple flare.

    Is it any wonder that I have ZERO respect for Apple?

  •   16
    Deactivated Account Oct 2, 2012 Link to comment

    Well, everyone who knows even a little bit about photography knows that you shouldn't in the immediat direction of a light source.

    Still pretty harsh words though.

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