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Apple is working on a new compression technology to beat Google Photos

by Harikrishna Mekala

Last year Apple succeeded to shrink photo file sizes dramatically so you could pack twice as many photos onto your iPhone. But hold on, because that division is the only game in town.

Google, Mozilla, and others in an organization called the Alliance for Open Media are operating on a rival photo technology. In experimenting so far, the images are 15 percent smaller than Apple’s HEIC photo format, said Tim Terriberry, a Mozilla chief research engineer working on the project. But smaller sizes are just the source.

The project is still fresh it doesn’t even have a name, much less a certain destiny. But it’s got a strong list of allies, an affinity for web publishing and modern specialties that could make it the best contender yet for overcoming JPEG’s 1990s-era shortcomings.

“It seems complete silly that we’re still relying on compression tech from 20 years ago,” said Kelly Thompson, general director at 500px, a photo sharing, and sales site. “The things we’re using to capture and display images is now passing JPEG’s upper limits.”

One way or different, photos are going to get better. It’s not clear what path we’ll take or how long it’ll take, but it is clear that photos are turning into something more than issues you can stick in a photo album.

JPEG isn’t just limited by needlessly large file sizes. It’s also weak when it appears to support a wider range of bright and dark tones, a broader spectrum of colors, and graphic details like text and logos. On top of that, photos these days are fracturing beyond the rectangle-of-pixels limits, but JPEG can’t touch new photo technology like bursts of shots, scenes, live photos and 3D scene data.

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