A report on Wednesday by Fast Company adds fuel to the rumor fires of a laser-powered time-of-flight (ToF) 3D rear camera on at least one of Apple’s upcoming 2020 iPhone handsets. The new camera would bring significant improvements in augmented reality and photos.
Fast Company says Apple has elected San Jose-based Lumentum to supply the VCSEL lasers that will power the “world-facing” 3D depth sensor in “at least one of this year’s iPhones.”
VCSELs, or vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, have been a key part of Apple’s TrueDepth camera since the release of the iPhone X in 2017. The lasers power such features as Face ID, Animoji, and Portrait mode selfies, and other features. A ToF camera system would be a major step up from TrueDepth thanks to its more advanced use of a laser.
TrueDepth projects a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto a user’s face, measuring the distortion to generate an accurate 3D image for authentication and other usees. Meanwhile, ToF calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off objects in the surrounding area to create a 3D image of the environment, allowing for more accurate depth perception and better placement of virtual objects, which should result in photos with better depth.
While Lumentum has produced VCSELs for Apple’s TrueDepth cameras in recent years it has shared the business with other suppliers. The Fast Company report indicates the company will be the exclusive VCSEL supplier this time around.
Previous rumors from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have indicated that two higher-end 2020 iPhones will use the new time-of-flight rear camera, indicating the lower-end 2020 iPhone won’t feature the camera.
Rumors have suggested that a 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model will boast triple-lens cameras, while the 5.4 and 6.1-inch models will be lower-end iPhones featuring dual-lens cameras with a lower price.