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iPhone 3GS capable of 720p, 1080p hi-def playback?

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009
News Categories: iPhone

A forum post to Chinese-language site weiphone.com (Translated Link) indicates that the iPhone 3GS is capable of playing back both 720p and 1080p video encoded in H.264 through the built-in video player, suggesting that Apple is currently placing arbitrary limits on the device, either to preserve battery life or keep its functionality more consistent with that of prior iPhone OS devices. Using the free document storage and viewing application FileAid, forum member fridtear was able to circumvent Apple’s video restrictions, smoothly playing back files up to 30 Mbps in 1920x1080 resolution via the iPhone 3GS’ built-in video player. While the effects on the device’s temperature and battery of playing back such large video files is unclear, these tests do appear to indicate that Apple would be able to open up the 3GS and any similarly-appointed future iPhone OS devices to playback of HD video files purchased from the iTunes Store, and potentially allow the devices to output HD-quality video via the Component AV Cable for iPod and iPhone.

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Comments

1

A little birdie hinted at 720p playback and output a few years ago.  The iPhone 3GS may be the first Apple device that could truly support it.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on August 20, 2009 at 8:04 AM (PDT)

2

”... Apple is ... placing arbitrary limits on the device, either to preserve battery life or keep its functionality more consistent”

You contradict yourself when you say they “arbitrary” place limits on the iPhone.  I, for one, would prefer better battery life and a “cooler” (temperature-wise) phone than having some ability to play 1080p and having wasted storage space due to higher res files.  It’s already be reported that the video hardware in the iPhone 3GS is capable of 1080 playback.

If there was a way, with the current hardware, to keep the size and weight of the iPhone down, play (and record) 1080p, AND have a long battery life, do’t you think Apple would have already done that?

Posted by Don Funk on August 20, 2009 at 11:26 AM (PDT)

3

This may be an ignorant question, I may be missing something entirely, but doesn’t the actual physical 320x480 pixel screen automatically limit it, regardless of software? I don’t see any way that a software workaround is going to display more than 13 times as many pixels as actually exist on the display.

Is it more of an argument that “of course it has to massively downsample, it’s just that the phone is capable of processing that much data that quickly”? If so, so what?

Posted by MatthewF on August 20, 2009 at 12:51 PM (PDT)

4

I think everyone is missing the point, having an iPhone or iPod capable of playing HD video opens up the possibility of being able to play HD videos rented from iTunes on your HD TV. This would remove the need to purchase the rediculously expensive AppleTV. Surely this is fantastic news for people like me who want the best playback possible on the big TVs?

Posted by Iain Thompson on August 20, 2009 at 1:08 PM (PDT)

5

Not exactly news - you can do this with Apple’s own iDisk app on a 3GS. I have a lot of HD videos on my iDisk for client approval, so trying playback of them was the first thing I tried. All play fine. It’s also a way of storing video off the phone and streaming it, whatever the connection….

Posted by Ben H on August 20, 2009 at 1:10 PM (PDT)

6

I have output cables for my 3Gs and have movies on there. Sometimes I take movies, put them on my iPhone, and plug them in to my girlfriends TV to watch a movie. And yes I turn airplane mode on. LOL

Posted by Christopher Cox on August 20, 2009 at 3:37 PM (PDT)

7

Psssst…. It’s 1920x1080, not 1980x1080.

(Sorry, I’m a video editor and notice these things.)

Posted by LiciousTheDiva on August 20, 2009 at 4:38 PM (PDT)

8

My years old Archos HD laughs at your puny iPhoney resolutions.

Posted by Archos4Evah on August 20, 2009 at 6:39 PM (PDT)

9

films en acteurs [+promo]: Ik heb intussen ook de App Store beschrijvingen aangepast met…

Posted by rajin on August 21, 2009 at 8:45 AM (PDT)

10

I am shocked…... Just tried it out with a 720P Quicktime trailer, 1080p MKV converted to MOV using AVS Video Converter and a unmodified file from my Sanyo HD2000 camcorder which is 1080/60p @24Mbits (this last file struggles on my dual core laptop). They all play perfectly…. This is AWESOME!!!!!!

Posted by Nick B on August 21, 2009 at 2:25 PM (PDT)

11

Is it not possible that this capacity is actually directed at the upcoming Tablet, possibly confirming the closeness of that design to the iPhone/touch.  Another possibility is that of the use of an external screen.

Posted by Bostonius on August 24, 2009 at 12:05 PM (PDT)

12

Does converting a 720p or 1080p disc or file (mkv/avi) to mp4 format count??

I’ve already done so and the movies/tv episodes play well on my 64gb iTouch!

Problems:
1. Storage is greatly reduced due to the size as well as the transfer speed from iTunes to the device

2. Battery life has shortened.

The 2 problems are to be expected from playing files from HD sources!

Posted by Toa on January 13, 2010 at 3:27 PM (PDT)

13

1. Great! HD capability is a feature I’d love to have. But this means I have to buy a 3Gs, while I currently have 1 2G, and 2 3G (one is a gift). Quite unfortunate that the 3G cannot do this (I tested with File Aid and transfer an 480p, 720p and 1080p trailer in .mov and .mp4 containers (all three have h264 codec).
2. Playback using Component cable output: I’m using this to play my SD (from iTunes purchase) on my 3G and 2G (even on my Nano - which CAN play SD) to a 32” samsung HDTV. But, using Component cable restricts you to play the movie in 480p mode, while a HDMI cable would allow up to 1080p (if your TV can do it).
3. So, HD capability on 3Gs, awesome. Playback using Component cable output = 480p. Having only 3G iPhone… #### happens smile

Posted by rob on January 28, 2010 at 10:42 AM (PDT)

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