Possibilities of a Triple-Lens iPhone Camera: Improved 3D Sensing, Zoom, and Low-Light Photos

Following in the footsteps of Huawei and likely Samsung, Apple is widely rumored to release at least one new iPhone model with a triple-lens rear camera in 2019. That model is now believed to be the next generation of the iPhone XS Max.

A render of the alleged triple-lens design has even surfaced this week, complete with what would surely be a polarizing design:

2019 iphone triple camera rendering


If the rumor proves to be accurate and depending on the implementation, there are several potential advantages of the third lens, including advanced 3D sensing, increased optical zoom, improved low-light performance, and improved photo quality in general thanks to the collection of more light and color data.

Advanced 3D Sensing

Apple has repeatedly expressed a profound interest in augmented reality. The release of ARKit instantly made augmented reality accessible to hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads, but Apple is just getting started in this area.

A third lens would likely result in significantly improved 3D spatial recognition on the iPhone, with a report last year suggesting that the rear-facing sensing capabilities will be even more advanced than the front-facing TrueDepth system on the iPhone X. This would open the door to several augmented reality use cases.

iphone xs arkit
The same report claimed the triple-lens camera array will be capable of stereoscopic imaging, in which two of the sensors would be able to capture images of a single object from different angles. A triangulation method would then be used to obtain the distance between the iPhone and the object.

Back in 2017, Bloomberg News reported that Apple aimed to include rear-facing 3D sensing capabilities in its 2019 iPhones. But, at the time, the report said Apple was evaluating a time-of-flight approach that calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a 3D image of the environment.

Whichever implementation Apple uses, the third lens would no doubt improve the iPhone's augmented reality capabilities. And that, in turn, could lay the foundation for the rumored launch of augmented reality Apple Glasses in 2020.

Increased Optical Zoom

A third lens would likely enable 3x optical zoom on an iPhone for the first time, enabling users to magnify the image in the viewfinder by up to 3x without a blurry reduction in quality like digital zoom.

By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max feature 2x optical zoom.

huawei p20 pro

Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei's P20 Pro smartphone was the first with a triple-lens rear camera system, including a 40-megapixel lens, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom.

Improved Low-Light Performance

A third lens on the iPhone, if a traditional sensor, would draw in additional light for improved low-light performance.

Apple is certainly heavily invested in computational photography. On the latest iPhones, for example, Smart HDR results in photos with more highlight and shadow detail, while Depth Control significantly improves Portrait Mode.

pixel night sight
Google's new "Night Sight" mode on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sets the bar for low-light photos, however, by using machine learning to choose the right colors based on the content of the image. The result is much brighter photos in low-light conditions, without having to use the camera flash.

With a third lens, and improved machine learning, perhaps Apple can come out with a feature to rival Night Sight in 2019.

Related Roundup: iPhone 11
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

Razeus Avatar
31 months ago
And yet Google does all of this with one lens and AI.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unity451 Avatar
31 months ago
Honestly... I think they're selling themselves short...
Also... anyone suffer from trypophobia?



Attachment Image
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
31 months ago
Can’t wait for the 20 lens iPhone XX with 20x optical zoom.

Seriously, Apple is running out of ideas.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
31 months ago
Not gonna lie. I thought that Google "Night Sight" was some BS "images may be simulated" marketing. I even told my buddy he fell for Google's okey doke. Then I got to see it. Ate my words. Apple definitely needs something like that. If it takes 3 lenses, so be it. The feature is that good.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HJM.NL Avatar
31 months ago
Huawei won the implementation and design crown here. It’s also a lot cheaper as Apple’s offerings. And Apple still thinks it’s because china’s economy is slowing down?

For me it’s proof how far Apple’s staff has come from reality and customers.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
19callum93 Avatar
31 months ago
All I want is a flat flush camera :(
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
apple park drone june 2018 2

Apple Fires Newly Hired Ex-Facebook Product Manager Following Revelations of Past Misogynistic Comments

Thursday May 13, 2021 12:10 am PDT by
Apple has fired Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager and author of the controversial book "Chaos Monkeys," following public and internal calls for removal and investigation due to past misogynistic statements, The Verge reports. Apple hired Martínez earlier this week to join its ads team, however, comments that Martínez made in the past sparked condemnation from users...
magic mouse space gray discontinued

Apple Discontinuing Space Gray Mac Accessories Now That iMac Pro is Dead

Friday May 14, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
Following the discontinuation of the iMac Pro, Apple also appears to be discontinuing Space Gray "Magic" accessories that it sold separately alongside the iMac Pro. The iMac Pro was the only Space Gray Mac, and Apple designed special matching accessories for it. The Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad all now say "While supplies last" in small wording at the bottom...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Apple Says Tile Trackers Sold Poorly in Apple Stores

Friday May 14, 2021 4:53 am PDT by
Earlier last month, Spotify, Tile, and Match (owner of Tinder), testified at an app store antitrust hearing spearheaded by the U.S. Senate. During the hearing, Spotify called Apple's App Store "an abusive power grab," while Tile said Apple uses its platform to "unfairly limit competition for its products." Now, in response to their testimonies, Apple's vice president and chief compliance...
google photos

PSA: Google Photos Unlimited Storage Ends Next Month, Here's How to Export Your Pictures to iCloud

Thursday May 13, 2021 5:26 am PDT by
For as long as it's existed, Google Photos has offered free unlimited storage for uploading images at a reduced yet good enough quality for most users. From June 1, 2021, however, all photos and videos uploaded to Google accounts will count against users' cloud storage. If you've been relying on Google to back up your media library, it may be time to move that content elsewhere. This article...
fortnite apple logo 2

Judge in Epic vs. Apple Case Floats Potential Compromise

Wednesday May 12, 2021 3:54 pm PDT by
In the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the two companies are this week calling up their expert witnesses to argue their points before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will make a decision in the case after a three week trial. Expert testimony is not as exciting as some of the leaked App Store documents that were highlighted last week, especially as much of what's being...
syng cell alpha

Longtime Apple Designer Christopher Stringer's Latest Project Is a High-Fidelity Speaker With AirPlay 2

Friday May 14, 2021 7:30 am PDT by
Christopher Stringer, a key member of Jony Ive's design team who spent 21 years at Apple before departing in 2017, is resurfacing today with his new venture Syng, which seeks to make an impact in the high-end audio market. Stringer, who contributed to many of the most iconic product designs in Apple's history, announced his plans roughly a year ago, and Syng is today introducing its flagship ...
Twitter Feature

Twitter's 'Blue' Subscription Service May Cost $2.99, Will Offer Undo Tweet Option

Saturday May 15, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Twitter has been working on some kind of subscription service since last summer, and Jane Manchun Wong, who often digs into new features coming in apps, has shared details on just what Twitter is exploring. Twitter's subscription service could be called Twitter Blue, and at the current time, it's priced at $2.99 per month. There will be a "Collections" section that allows users to save and...
imac m1 blue isolated 16x9 500k

M1 iMac is Up to 56% Faster Than Prior-Generation High-End 21.5-Inch iMac

Wednesday May 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Apple's M1 iMacs are set to start delivering to customers next week, and ahead of the official launch day, benchmarks for the machines have been showing up on Geekbench, likely from reviewers who are testing them. It will come as no surprise that M1 iMac benchmarks are right on par with benchmarks for the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, coming in with an average single-core score...