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Apple Buys U.K. Startup to Improve iPhone Picture Taking

Mark Gurman

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. acquired a U.K.-based startup with technology that improves photos taken on smartphones.

According to filings made public in the U.K. on Thursday, Apple corporate lawyer Peter Denwood was recently named a director of Cambridge, U.K.-based Spectral Edge Ltd., while the startup’s other advisers and board members were terminated.

The documents show that Apple now controls Spectral. Similar filings in the past have revealed other startup acquisitions by the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, such as the purchase of digital marketing startup DataTiger earlier this year.

A purchase price for Spectral Edge could not be ascertained. The startup said last year that it raised more than $5 million in funding.

Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment. The U.S. company has opened offices in Cambridge in recent years to work on artificial intelligence for products like the Siri digital assistant.

Spectral Edge uses a type of AI called machine learning to make smartphone pictures crisper, with more accurate colors. Its technology takes an infrared shot and blends it with a standard photo to improve the image.

Photography has become a key differentiator in the smartphone market. Apple has rapidly added new camera features to the iPhone, including a triple-lens system in the iPhone 11 Pro earlier this year. It’s also planning to add a 3-D camera to iPhones next year for improved depth sensing and augmented reality.

Spectral Edge’s technology could contribute to the AI Apple already uses in its Camera app by continuing to improve the quality of photos in low-light environments. The startup has said its technology can be applied via software or chips. Apple’s latest devices include custom processors that assist with picture taking.

Apple’s purchase of the firm is one of several deals it has made this year, including buying Drive.ai’s self-driving car team and acquiring Intel Corp.’s smartphone modem business.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew Martin

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