In any other iOS release cycle, this would be small news: According to features found in the iOS 7 beta releases, the next iPhone may record slow-motion video. But it's July 2013, and the new iPhone is expected to come out in September. Snapchat, an image and video texting service, is arguably the most important app of the moment. Vine appeared out of nowhere and became huge overnight. Instagram just added a video feature for its millions upon millions of users.
A year ago, almost nobody was sharing video on their phones. A year from now, it's possible that sharing video will be as commonplace as sharing photos. That's the context in which we're finding out that the next iPhone may shoot slow motion — and what could make slow motion the defining internet aesthetic of the year.
The software trail suggests that the iPhone camera will support up to 120 frames per second, which is about the speed shown above. Further clues suggest that third-party apps may be able to capture at only 60 frames per second, or about half-speed, which is enough to produce a dramatic, if not cinematic, effect. Dramatic enough for Instagram, at least.
Slow motion could be to mobile video what filters were to mobile photography. Gradually, despite inevitable backlash for "overuse," it will become a standard part of the video-sharing process; like filters, it's a way to make bad, hastily shot media seem sort of cool. It would work particularly well in the context of Snapchat, where video is often just background for a text message.
Samsung's newer Android phones support high-frame-rate video recording, and it looks pretty good:
But on the Galaxy S4, this feature is marooned in the camera app — there's really nowhere to put a video like this except for YouTube. And it's possible that the iPhone's feature will end up the same way; Instagram and Vine and Snapchat have to decide that slow motion is a good idea and build it into their apps.
But if they do? Get ready to slow down.