iOS 18 means any app can use the best camera trick on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro review back handheld angled camera
The iPhone 15 Pro (Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

If you've got an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max, iOS 18 will enable any app on your handset to make use of the best camera trick that's exclusive to these devices: the ability to record ever-so-slightly 3D images and clips known as spatial photos and videos.

As reported by MacRumors, Apple announced a new API (application programming interface) at WWDC 2024 earlier this month, which means third-party app developers will be able to leverage the spatial features in the same way as the rest of the iPhone camera.

The technical name for the trick is stereoscopy, and it works by taking the same photo (or video) from two slightly different angles. You end up with something that has a little bit of depth to it, rather than being 2D and flat.

As the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have two cameras vertically aligned, they can capture spatial photos and videos – the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus can't, as the cameras on those phones are diagonally aligned (that might change with the iPhone 16).

Viewing photos and videos

Apple Vision Pro spatial video

You need a Vision Pro to look at spatial photos and videos (Image credit: Apple)

You can't actually view spatial photos and videos on an iPhone, what with it having a two-dimensional screen: you need an Apple Vision Pro so that you can move your head around, and we've been impressed by the experience. These files can also be viewed on other VR headsets, but not natively – you need to do some converting. Spatial videos can also be captured on a Vision Pro headset, as well as viewed.

With sluggish sales reported for Apple's mixed reality headset, developers might not be falling over themselves to get support for spatial photos and spatial videos built into their apps, but it is another selling point in a crowded field.

So far we haven't seen any photo or video apps implementing the feature, though iOS 18 is only at the developer beta stage right now. Given that the new API is closely integrated with the current iPhone camera APIs, it shouldn't be too hard to add support for it.

When September rolls around and we get more iPhones that can record in these formats, as well as a full release of iOS 18-compatible devices, spatial photos and spatial videos might start to become more mainstream. 

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.