I hope you like your Apple devices with even better camera functions, because the company’s clearly not slowing down on that front. Over the weekend, TechCrunch first reported that Cupertino had acquired SnappyLabs, the one-man company behind the popular SnappyCam app for iPhone; Cupertino later confirmed the acquisition to Re/code.
Australian developer John Papandriopoulos was the man behind SnappyCam, a $1 app that, among other features, allowed users to take bursts of high-quality shots using their iPhone’s camera—a capability that later appeared in Apple’s own Camera app with the release of the iPhone 5s. The engineering behind that achievement was no small deal, either: TechCrunch says Papandriopoulos “essentially reinvented the JPG image format.”
Apple, for its part, has acquired plenty of technology companies over the last few years. In 2013 alone, it likely picked up around a dozen companies, several of which specialized in transit and mapping data.
Typically, these acquisitions serve a twofold purpose. For one, it gives Apple access to the technologies that these companies have developed, which often find their way into future Apple products. For example, the fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5s was at least in part the result of Apple’s 2012 acquisition of AuthenTec. Likewise, many are expecting beefed-up public transportation mapping features in Apple’s next releases of iOS and OS X, due to the company’s recent purchase of companies like HopStop and Embark. In the case of SnappyCam, camera functions have clearly been an area of—if you’ll pardon the expression—focus for Apple and its smartphone competitors in the last few years. Every iteration of the iPhone has improved camera features in one way or another, so finding more improvements to bring to that area—which is an important one for consumers—is definitely a priority.
The second benefit of such acquisitions, however, is the personnel they bring. In this case, that’s Papandriopoulos, whom The Guardian’s Charles Arthur describes as an “algorithms whiz.” For example, for his doctorate in electrical engineering, Papandriopoulos concocted a scheme by which one could substantially increase the data throughput of copper phone lines.
If there’s a downside to the purchase, however, it’s that those who never had a chance to pick up SnappyCam now won’t be able to. The app has been removed from the App Store, and even the company’s website has been mostly dismantled. Instead, users will have to wait until Apple bundles such features into a future release.