Hi-Def video playback on the iPhone 3GS is real


Until very recently, iPhone HD playback has at best been a fabulous rumour and at worst, a marketing buzzword. Tear downs have revealed that the hardware is at least capable of 720p resolution playback, but still, there is no official software support and thus, no playback of such files. Purecaeli, an adventurous MacRumors member discovered that Air Sharing can be used to transfer and play HD files in both 720 and 1080 resolutions, but more importantly, that Apple’s schemes to limit the platform can be overrun without the need for jailbreaking.

[UPDATE] The iPhone 4G may have a higher resolution screen of 960*640 and is dubbed by a few, the iPhone HD. [Before we get to the meat of this, it is important to point out two limitations. First, uncompressed HD is simply too much for the iPhone 3GS – it does not have the bandwidth to provide smooth playback (nor really storage space) of RAW nor BD-quality files. Secondly, of course, the low-resolution screen of the iPhone means that the files do not display in HD, rather, they are viewed in the iPhone’s native 480*320 resolution. The importance of this find is that DVD and above resolutions can now be played without the perplexing second step of re-coding videos for the iPod]

Avatron Software, Air Sharing, 4.99$
Air Sharing (Document Viewer, File Storage)


Like myself, Purecaeli is poisoned by a love for headphones – a love that brought him to Soundcat‘s HQ in Seoul where the two of us sipped coffee while waiting for an explosive 4-course party. Among the dross of normal conversation, we discussed the merits of using Comply foams with Westone’s UM3X and whether the sound of Earsonics’ SM2 is better because of its ear pieces or simply because the French company have developed a winning earphone. The conclusion? Well, we’ve still not come to that, but I will let you in on this secret: one size does not fit all.

After such banter, our conversation hit the ‘lull’ point, where following a formal few seconds of silence, Purecaeli pulled out his newly purchased 3GS. The result of his show and tell was that the latest iPhone does indeed playback HD files. In fact, with just a hint of stutter, 1080 resolution files are also playable. According to the soft-spoken naturalised Australian, an hour of playback reduces battery life by approximately 20%, making for 4-5 hours of hi-def a distinct possibility (if those pesky battery metres can be believed). Apple have thus far been mum about HD, possibly suppressing the feature for ‘One more thing’, or more likely, waiting until the next-gen iPod touch is released to surprise fans with yet another massive upgrade.

As with regular iPod video files, the format must be Mp4 and be compatible with iTunes. Other than that, AirSharing, available at 4.99$ is all that is needed to transfer files to your iPhone 3GS.

While the iPhone 3GS’s screen resolution is a meagre 480*320, capability of HD playback means that DVD’s and for owners of hi-def videos, files can stay in their native resolution rather require truncation to iPod-compatible resolutions. While we have not yet had the chance to test cables and the new iPhone’s video output resolution yet, it’s not hard to imagine that a HD compatible iPod or iPhone that can output to hi resolution will be an aggressive step into the spot maintained by Apple’s own TV.

The ongoing MacRumors thread can be viewed here.

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