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iPhone 13 Pro's 6GB-per-minute ProRes storage destroyer is another nail in Lightning's coffin

Iphone 13 Pro And Iphone 13 Pro Max
Iphone 13 Pro And Iphone 13 Pro Max (Image credit: Rene Ritchie/ iMore)

Here we are, less than a day before Apple's iPhone 13 lineup goes on sale. Excitement is building and people are refreshing their tracking pages often enough to cause someone somewhere to think there's a DDOS attack. But safe in the knowledge that my iPhone 13 Pro Max is sitting at my local Apple Store, I'm pondering the decision to put 4K HDR ProRes video into an iPhone. And not because I don't think anyone will use it, either.

While Apple has already said that ProRes support won't be coming until fall, we do know one important thing about it already. That's the fact that a single minute of 4K HDR ProRes video will consume a massive 6GB of storage space. That's a lot of space being eaten up, but my issue isn't even with that. Nor the fact that 128GB iPhones won't be able to record in 4K ProRes at all. No, my problem comes after all the recording is done and dusted.

My issue is pretty simple: how do we get the video off those iPhones — the best iPhones ever built for video recording — once it's been filmed?

The most obvious route would be to plug the iPhone into a Mac and do the thing. The problem here is that the thing will take a long, long time. At Lightning's pedestrian USB 2.0 speeds of 480Mbps, it's fair to say that we could be waiting long enough for that Lightning cable to fully charge an iPhone while it's connected. That's less than ideal, as I'm sure we can all agree.

The call to bring USB-C, or even Thunderbolt, to iPhones isn't a new one. The EU wants to wade in and get involved, too. But while most of the time it's all about a question of convenience, Lightning could be a real bottleneck from here on out. And that's just bad for all concerned.

There is, of course, AirDrop. I'm out of my depth here because I haven't successfully made AirDrop transfer anything more than a few photos at a time — and even then, rarely at my first attempt. The idea of trying to AirDrop a multi-gigabyte file fills me with dread.

So where does that leave us? Really, I'm not so sure. There doesn't seem to be a good solution for getting huge files off of an iPhone right now but, rather, just a collection of bad and less bad ones. That needs to change and while it's possible Apple has something up its sleeve for whenever ProRes finally breaks cover, I won't be holding my breath. I'd love to be surprised, but if Apple has found a way to make a format that's supposed to be lightly compressed into something that somehow takes up no space at all, ProRes recording is going to be something we all have, but dare not use.

As we sit here on iPhone Eve, that just seems like a real shame all around.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

8 Comments
  • Not ideal at USB-C speed? Yes. Afraid to use it because it'll take longer than you'd like. That's overly dramatic.
  • I think you mean USB 2 speeds, That's what Lightning supports, and that is significantly slower than USB C or Thunderbolt. It's important to be able to take advantage of the capability provided without some other part of the system hindering it. If it takes 2-3 times as long to get that video off the iPhone, that is a detriment to the usability/adoption of the technology. It would be the same as providing this option and not also increasing the storage options needed, to hold the increased file sizes.
  • BTW, Lightning operates at the USB 2.0 speed of 480mbps, while USB-C works at 5gbps. So that's more than a factor of 10.
  • I have no need for ProRes for my needs. I mean, I bet most of us won't use it.
  • Maybe Apple shouldn't have bothered. I mean, if you don't need it.
  • Or maybe Apple should finally fix the unreliable mess called AirDrop.
  • AirDrop uses point to point WiFi. The theoretical maximum of Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 are 500 MB/s and 1200 MB/s respectively. Think I'd still vote for USB C.
  • Apple will just remove the port and then you'll be stuck doing everything OTA and just hope that your internet stays consistent while transferring items.