Apple will work with two Chinese suppliers in 2018 to ensure a stable supply of 3D sensing modules for use in this year's iPhone and iPad line-up, according to a report on Thursday by ET News.
Last month The Investor claimed Apple was planning a $820.9 million investment in LG Innotek to secure supply of 3D sensing modules, which are key components of the iPhone X's new TrueDepth camera system, enabling features such as Face ID and Animoji.
However, according to today's report, Apple has selected two Chinese companies to shore up supply. One is said to be an emerging supplier amongst smartphone part markets, and the other is a popular semiconductor packaging company. Nevertheless, LG Innotek is expected remain the biggest main vendor out of the three module suppliers, while the two Chinese companies will provide the rest.
Apple plans to launch a refreshed iPhone X, a larger iPhone X Plus, and a mid-range iPhone each with Face ID later this year, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple will also release at least one iPad Pro model with Face ID this year, according to Bloomberg.
It's unusual for Apple to source Chinese suppliers for key parts, but the additional help could mean Apple avoids the temporary supply chain issues it experienced with 3D sensing modules late last year.
In addition, the extra supply could benefit Apple in the long term if it looks to combine the front-facing camera and Face ID on future iPhones, as claimed by ETNews back in January.
According to the report, industry sources claim Apple's plan to combine these features would increase the number of parts used in iPhones, however it's unlikely we'll see such a design this year, given that the 2018 line-up of iOS devices are expected to have the same TrueDepth sensor housing as the iPhone X.