Apple has acquired the one-man company behind the SnappyCam iPhone camera app. The app had the ability to shoot 20 8MP photos in a second, which is 4 times faster than other apps including Apple’s own Camera app.
The news of the acquisition comes via TechCrunch:
Apple has acquired the one-man photo technology startup SnappyLabs, maker of SnappyCam, sources tell me.
I first noticed something was up when we got tipped off that SnappyCam had disappeared from the App Store and all of SnappyLabs‘ websites went blank. Sources have since affirmed that the company was acquired by Apple, and that there was also acquisition interest “from most of the usual players”, meaning other tech giants. I don’t have details on the terms of the deal, and I’m awaiting a response from Apple, which has not confirmed the acquisition.
The app could shoot 20 8MP photos per second thanks to an optimised technique to compress photos into the JPEG format. The developer of the app, an electrical engineering PhD, wrote thousands of lines of assembly and low-level C code to make this compression as fast as possible. He details the process in a blog post, now taken down (archive.org link):
JPEG compression comprises two parts: the DCT [Discrete Cosine Transform], and a lossless Huffman compression stage that forms a compact JPEG file. Having developed a blazing fast DCT implementation, Huffman then became a bottleneck. We innovated on that portion with tight hand-tuned assembly code that leverages special features of the ARM processor instruction set to make it as fast as possible.
It’s not hard to guess where Apple could use the techniques developed by SnappyLabs. It recently added a burst mode and a slow-motion mode to the iPhone camera, both of which depend on capturing as many images as possible per second.