Apple has 800 people working on improving the iPhone’s camera

“Charlie Rose’s 60 Minutes set its sights on Apple on Sunday night and tried to reveal hidden details about how Apple does business,” Chris Smith reports for BGR.

“Among the various things 60 Minutes revealed during the show is the fact that Apple has a team of 800 people working on a single iPhone feature: Its camera,” Smith reports. “According to Graham Townsend, Apple has no less than 800 people working on the iPhone camera.”

Smith reports, “That’s impressive and it shows Apple’s commitment for improving the camera in its best-selling product.”

MacDailyNews Take: It’s either impressive or massively bloated mismanagement, depending on your point of view.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We found the 60 Minutes piece to be insipid and fawning. The most interesting thing was Rose’s ability to pronounce the word “secretive” in an entirely new way.


    1. MDN ability to snidely comment on something it knows nothing about – that would include anything having to do with engineering, supply chain management and production – appears to be bottomless.

      I suspect that the “800 people working on the camera” number includes, errr… a Fudge Factor, since it is resource allocation information that has value to competitors. But rather than suggest that, the folks at MDN – who have vast experience managing complex, global technology development, manufacturing and distribution processes (/s) – toss off an uninformed “take” that has about as much value as the daily opinions of Wall Street analysts.

      A more thoughtful response would decompose the claim this way: First, in all likelihood, the “800 people” are working on all Apple imaging devices – in iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, etc. It also probably includes part-timers and contract professionals. Second, since Apple doesn’t go down to Fry’s and buy a camera module, all 200+ components (multiplied by the various camera versions) must be spec’d and designed, some by in-house engineers and some by people on the outside. These parts must then be sourced from all around the world, integrated and then manufactured. You don’t do this kind of stuff at the scale at which Apple operates (100s of millions of units a year – unimaginable to MDN) with a dozen people.

      The range of expertise this requires is vast. It isn’t just electronics. It includes optics – the process of creating finely polished glass lenses (five in an iPhone camera? plus the exterior one is coated in sapphire) and mounting them in a focusing structure considerably smaller than a fingertip is mind-boggling. It also includes sound (since the camera is a video recorder, too), which means the personnel list includes the folks doing microphones and other audio capability in the various devices.

      It also includes software. Because Apple has access to a near-desktop-powerful CPU, its image processing software is vastly more complex and sophisticated that the stuff that runs in your consumer DSLR. Whatever the size of the overall team, I’d be surprised if the coders weren’t at least 20% of the folks working on the cameras.

      And finally, it includes testing. Given the quality of iPhone photos and video, this is clearly something Apple takes seriously and there must be a lot of people involved in the product QC and improvement process.

      So, before you say to yourself “wow, MDN really nailed that one” I have a suggestion: Think.

      1. MacDailyNews gave a choice. You chose to ignore the first option and launch into a diatribe as if they’d only offered the second. That’s your problem, not MacDailynews’.

      2. I’ll take a different take on the “800” claim, because it lacks any really useful context.

        For example, how does 800 working on but one particular hardware subsystem compare to how many people are working on OS X development? On OS X Apps development?

        Reason for this question is because there’s not really any doubt that Apple has poured a ton of resources in making some really neat hardware – – – that’s Ive’s strength, afterall – – – but the real concern is what are they doing at the overall SYSTEM level.

        And system means not just hardware, but also software. If you go back to watch the 60 Minutes interview again, guess what you’ll not hear a single peep about.

        Ive is a hardware geek – – not a software geek. As such, the really important question isn’t how many people are helping him to fulfill his dream hardware … but just how many people have been allocated into working the area that’s his _weakness_?

    1. lol. iTunes used to be my favorite program. I never use it anymore, and actually I don’t know anyone anymore who uses it. I can only reiterate all of the most common criticisms.

    1. Throwing more money into any project and adding more people to any project will not always guarantee success. Without adequate leadership and communication inputting more cash and bodies is a symptom of failure not a demonstration of intelligence and rationality.

  1. I just LOVE how people who create NOTHING in the physical dimension, let alone something as complex as even the tiny camera in the iPhone (which complicates the heck out of the engineering needed to make the next one and the one following even better), can judge what is needed to make that happen. I doubt very much that Apple is bloating anything.

  2. Considering that the iPhone is the best selling camera in the world, this is reasonable.

    This 800 people come from many different disciplines (physics, optics, software, materials, manufacturing, supply chain, etc.), so the number is really not that large.

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