PSA: iPhone 4 Does Not Upload 720p Video

Like most of you new iPhone 4 owners out there, I decided to use my weekend activities to test out some of the phone’s capabilities. Mainly, its quality and ease of taking and sharing photos and videos. Taking and sharing photos was a snap. Upgrading from a 3G, I was impressed by the iPhone’s touch-to-focus capability. Video, on the other hand, was something I was completely surprised about.

When the iPhone 4 was announced at WWDC a couple of months back, it was said its camera would be able to record video in 720p resolution. The camera does, in fact, record in 720p. But this weekend, I learned a shocking truth. If you upload the video onto YouTube or decide to share it on your picture / video Twitter sharing website of choice (i.e. TwitPic, Posterous, etc.), the quality of the video is degraded to a maximum resolution of 568×320. In order to publish video onto YouTube at 720p, you’ll need to connect your iPhone 4 to your computer, import the video into iPhoto (or whatever your import tool of choice is), and then upload the video to YouTube from your computer.

This kind of small detail is one that will make a huge impact on how iPhone 4 users will share their media online. I for one enjoy sharing what I’m doing or experiencing with my friends, family, and followers online. One of the major selling points of the iPhone 4 for me was being able to take better quality photos and video, but this limitation is certainly going to impact my ability to share my videos while I’m on the go.

If I had to guess why Apple decided to limit the the resolution of videos uploaded directly from the iPhone 4, it’s probably to save AT&T from having over 1.7 million iPhone 4 owners uploading 720p video in order to save its 3G network from degrading further.  I hope my guess is inaccurate, but seeing as how Apple has been partaking in some shady business practices during their exclusive dealings with AT&T, I don’t see how I could be. As I said, I hope I’m wrong and hopefully Apple allows iPhone 4 users the ability to upload in 720p directly from the iPhone 4 in the future.

As points of reference, here are two videos that I uploaded this weekend.  It’s the same video, but uploaded through different means.  This first one was uploaded straight from my iPhone 4:

This second video was uploaded by downloading the video from my iPhone 4, to then upload it onto YouTube to make it 720p:

  • DjDATZ

    Yea, or you could wait until the full iPhone 4 jailbreak is available, and I'm sure it'll be just days until someone will hack this into making the phone upload the full resolution vid…lol Blame it all on AT&T!

  • Olegreg

    You try uploading while on wifi?

  • Zombie_Mac

    i think your example videos are not effective. I cant see a significantly diff in quality…


    I think you can dramtically see a diffrence in quality from the 1st vidoe to the 2nd one. The first one is blury and the picture is not as sharp as the second one. Nice post, thanks for the info…

  • Brent

    Uploading while on wifi does not fix the issue.

  • Brett

    Your second video is still not HD because YouTube is having issues recognising the iPhone .Mov format so it compresses it still. You should export the movie to iMove for mac and then export to YouTube from there or convert the movie using Handbrake to mp4, no loss of HD quality but YouTube can recognise it. That is why you dont have the 'HD' button on your second video.

  • Lee

    I hardly think this article even needs the word shocking in it. It takes 720p, you can upload it to a computer. All good. Just because it isnt uber convenient to shoot it straight there from the iphone itself, I hardly think this is sinister in any way.

    I am looking to purchase an iphone 4 very soon as I have to admit it is finally an impressive phone, though I dare say I will be totally frustrated if I have to do everything through iTunes (the iphones biggest flaw).

  • Jinwuk

    I fully agree with the Daniel. I encoded full-HD (1920×1080 29.97 fps) video to 720p mp4 video for Iphone4.
    Since the profile of h.264 supported by iPhone4 is main-profile, so that I insert 2 B-frames between each frames. The encoded video is played well on my PC, even including i-Tunes. However, the encoded video cannot be uploaded to my iphone.

  • Jinwuk

    I also found that the problem is fully based on the limitation of the resolution supported by iphone 4. In this point of view, I agree with Daniel strongly. In addition, I found the limitation of the resolution in iphone-4 is 900 x 512.

  • Jinwuk

    OK, I got a specification of h.264 video for Iphone-4.
    Real HD720P (1280×720) is impossible to be decoded because uploading is impossible.
    However, Iphone-4 can decode very closed an h.264 video of HD720P.
    I have tested it with a lot of video a day to know the specification for Iphone-4.
    Some results make me so surprised because I can find a serious bug in h.264 decoder of Iphone-4.

    Maximum Resolution : 1264 x 704
    (79 MBs in Row and 44 MBs in Column, where MB means Macroblock with 16×16 resolution)
    Main-Profile : Supported
    B-frame : There is a serious bug in large scaled video approximately 720P (not 720P).
    Even though a media player or quick time can play a video including B-frames, Iphone-4 cannot decode it correctly. In my opinion, there is a serious bug about an evaluation of bilocated motion vector in the decoder chipset of Iphone-4.

    Bitrate : I test video up to 3Mbps. By now, I don’t know the limitation of bit-rate which Iphone-4 can decode with.
    Multi-slice : supported. The video with 2-slices can be decoded in an Iphone-4.

    Recommended Specification
    Main-Profile Level 3.1
    Resolution 1264×704 @ 3Mbps without B-frame

  • cvblair

    I open my iPhone in PhoneView ($20), copy the movie to my computer, then share it via QuickTime Player X. Works perfectly.

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