In the smartphone wars, there will always be the tug-of-war between Androids and iPhones. Android gets certain features first, and then Apple eventually adds them to iOS in an implementation that is better or worse than the competition.
The Google Pixel 6 that came out in 2021 is one of those Android phones that actually piqued my interest. Not really because of the hardware, but more about the software, at least one feature of it. Yes, I'm talking about Magic Eraser, the tool that lets you eliminate unwanted objects in the background of your photos.
Now, Apple did not include such a feature in iOS 16. However, they did add a new ability that's simply called "lift subject from background." Basically, everything can become stickers on your favorite iPhone and iPad.
This lets you "lift" the subject from the background of any image, screenshot, or document, and then place it in another app. It essentially uses machine learning to isolate the subject from the background. Let me tell you, this is one entertaining feature that a lot of people will love.
Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas. While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.
What is "Lift subject from background," exactly?
The Lift subject from the background feature utilizes machine learning on an iPhone or iPad with A12 Bionic or later. So if you want to use this feature, you'll need one of the following devices:
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 mini
- iPhone SE (3rd-generation)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11
- iPhone SE (2nd-generation)
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XR
- iPad mini (5th-generation and later)
- iPad (8th-generation and later)
- iPad Air (3rd-generation and later)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st-generation and later)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd-generation and later)
With the Lift subject from background feature, you "lift" the subject from the background of any image, screenshot, or document, and then place it in another app. This could be Messages, an email, another document, or whatever else works with drag-and-drop. It essentially uses machine learning to isolate the subject from the background, basically creating custom stickers.
A lot of potential with machine learning
This isn't exactly the same as Magic Eraser on Google Pixel 6, but it is a clear demonstration that Apple understands the computational processes involved when it comes to images. And it's kind of like the reverse of Magic Eraser — instead of removing things in the background; you're removing the subject from the background and placing it somewhere else.
Now, you may be wondering what good is removing a subject from the background of an image? Personally, I'm having a ton of fun "lifting" my daughter from her pictures and sending them to friends and family. I'm also planning to use some as emojis in Slack. Oh, and can you imagine how much easier this makes it for epic Photoshop battles? I honestly cannot wait to see what people come up with when they place themselves in other ridiculously hilarious images, such as running from a T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Seriously, I'm going to turn everything into stickers — EVERYTHING! This is actually a feature I didn't think much of during the presentation, but after trying it out for just a few minutes, it's become quite addictive.
Apple's own flair
Again, the Lift subject from the background feature is not quite the same as Magic Eraser. But it's a sign that Apple's computational processes and machine learning know and understand the subject and background in a photo. This could be a sign that Apple could eventually add a Magic Eraser-like tool in the native Photos app for editing, just like the competition currently does.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more stickers to make and share.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.