Apple Reportedly Working on 3D Sensor System for Rear Camera in 2019 iPhones

Apple is developing 3D depth sensing technology for the rear-facing cameras in its 2019 iPhones, according to a new report by Bloomberg on Tuesday. The 3D sensor system will be different to the one found in the iPhone X's front-facing camera, and is said to be the next big step in turning the smartphone into a leading augmented reality device.

Apple is evaluating a different technology from the one it currently uses in the TrueDepth sensor system on the front of the iPhone X, the people said. The existing system relies on a structured-light technique that projects a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto a user's face and measures the distortion to generate an accurate 3D image for authentication. The planned rear-facing sensor would instead use a time-of-flight approach that calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a three-dimensional picture of the environment.

The existing TrueDepth camera would continue to be used in the front-facing camera of future iPhones in order to power Face ID, while the new system would bring the more advanced "time-of-flight" 3D sensing capability to the rear camera, according to the sources cited. Discussions with manufacturers are reportedly already underway, and include Infineon, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Panasonic. Testing is said to be still in the early stages, and could end up not being used in the phones at all.

With the release of iOS 11, Apple introduced the ARKit software framework that allows iPhone developers to build augmented reality experiences into their apps. The addition of a rear-facing 3D sensor could theoretically increase the ability for virtual objects to interact with environments and enhance the illusion of solidity.

Apple was reportedly beset with production problems when making the sensor in the iPhone X's front-facing camera, because the components used in the sensor array have to be assembled with a very high degree of accuracy. According to Bloomberg, while the time-of-flight technology uses a more advanced image sensor than the existing one in the iPhone X, it does not require the same level of precision during assembly. That fact alone could make a rear-facing 3D sensor easier to produce at high volume.

Late last month, oft-reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple is unlikely to expand its front-facing 3D sensing system to the rear-facing camera module on iPhones released in 2018. Kuo said the iPhone X's 3D sensing capabilities are already at least one year ahead of Android smartphones, therefore he believes Apple's focus with next year's iPhone models will be ensuring an on-time launch with adequate supply.

Related Roundup: iPhone 11
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 11 (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
37 months ago
Cue the comments from people about how they’re glad they didn’t buy the current X and waited
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

In 2030 another new camera leave it out enjoy the X and stop talking about years to come stupid rumours

Do you realise what site you're on?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago


Good luck guinea pigs! I’ll be buying the iPhone after next as all the kinks in the rear camera will have been ironed out.

Looking at the horizon for something better........

Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

How difficult could a 3d sensor be for a multi billion dollar company to work out?

Not that difficult. Mass producing it in the tens of millions and hitting a defect rate of below 0.0001% is the hard part.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago
This is very hard because you need to measure time-of-flight differences. If they do manage to pull this off, it would be truly amazing.

Example: For depth resolution of 1cm you'd need to be able to measure time differences of 33.3 pico seconds (i.e. 0,0000000000333 or 33.3 trillionths seconds). But 1cm for facial recognition is too coarse; they'd need a fraction of this.

It's been done ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-of-flight_camera#Direct_Time-of-Flight_imagers') in high-tech systems taking up more space than a whole iPhone.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago
Yikes, next year’s iPhone is sounding like a beta test. There’s bound to be problems in a gen 1 rear 3D camera system.

Good luck guinea pigs! I’ll be buying the iPhone after next as all the kinks in the rear camera will have been ironed out.

Edit: I thought I was obviously tongue-in-cheek but I guess not. So here’s the tag: /s

These types of comments are so common here that people just assume you’re being serious. Lol.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

AirPods Studio Rumored to Come With U1 Chip, Ultra-Wideband Said to Be Vital to Future Apple Ecosystem

Sunday September 20, 2020 6:17 am PDT by
Proven leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared a range of information about the ultra-wideband U1 chip in Apple's upcoming AirTags item trackers and AirPods Studio headphones. The first of a series of tweets shared today simply stated that AirPods Studio will contain an ultra-wideband U1 chip. It seems likely that the U1 chip would be used in AirPods Studio to track the location of...

AT&T Already Working on 6G, Says 5G iPhones Might Not Be 'Massive Event' Due to Economic Uncertainty

Monday September 21, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming launch of 5G iPhones might not be a "massive event" due to economic uncertainty amid the global health crisis, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said in a paywalled interview published by CNBC. "I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device," said McElfresh. "But I wouldn't forecast that it's going to be a massive event. I...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....

iOS 14 Adoption Surpasses 25% Across iPhone and iPad Five Days After Release

Monday September 21, 2020 9:06 am PDT by
Five days after Apple released iOS 14, adoption of the software update has reached approximately 26 percent of active iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices, according to mobile analytics company Mixpanel. This includes iPadOS 14. iOS 14 adoption appears to be outpacing iOS 13, which was installed on approximately 20 percent of active devices one week after its release last year, according to...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...