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



Attachment Image
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
40 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
40 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
40 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
40 months ago
All I want is a flat flush camera :(
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

airpodsinear 1

AirPods Save Woman's Life With Feature Everyone Should Know

Friday January 21, 2022 2:13 am PST by
Apple's AirPods have been credited with saving a woman's life after a potentially fatal fall, People reports. When a 60-year-old florist in New Jersey tripped and hit her head in her studio, she lost consciousness and awoke heavily bleeding. With nobody around to call for help, she realized she had her AirPods in, and used a "Hey Siri" command to call 911. An operator was able to stay on the ...
Upcoming Products 2022 Feature

Gurman: Apple Preparing 'Widest Array of New Hardware Products in Its History' for Fall

Sunday January 23, 2022 10:32 am PST by
Apple is working on a number of new products that are set to launch this fall, and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that it will be "the widest array" of new devices that Apple has introduced in its history. In his latest "Power On" newsletter, Gurman explains that Apple is working on four new flagship iPhones (iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Max, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max), an updated low-end Ma...
Questionable Design Decisions

Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

Sunday January 23, 2022 2:59 am PST by
Apple has always emphasized the depth of thought that goes into the design of its products. In the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book released by the company in 2016, Jony Ive explains how Apple strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative." But every once in a while even Apple...
top stories 2022jan22

Top Stories: Spring Apple Event Rumors, Apple Opposes Sideloading, and More

Saturday January 22, 2022 6:00 am PST by
As we roll into the latter half of January, we're starting to hear more about a potential spring Apple event, which is likely to take place in March or April. There are a number of potential announcements on deck, so an event would be a good opportunity for Apple to get them all out there. We've also been going back and forth on some iPhone 14 rumors, and we've taken a look at a number of...
att gigabit internet

AT&T Bringing $180/Month 5-Gigabit Internet to 70 Cities

Monday January 24, 2022 9:20 am PST by
AT&T today announced the launch of upgraded AT&T Fiber plans, which support speeds of up to 5 Gigabits for some customers. There are two separate plans, one "2 GIG" plan and one "5 GIG" plan, available to new and existing AT&T Fiber subscribers. According to AT&T, the new plans are available to nearly 5.2 million customers across 70 metro areas including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San...
macbook pro 14 16 2021

Three Months After Launch, Apple Still Struggling to Meet Demand for Redesigned 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Monday January 24, 2022 7:12 am PST by
Three months after their launch, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros continue to experience high demand and seemingly short supply, with shipping dates for both models stretching into multiple weeks in several of Apple's key markets. In the United States, the baseline 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is estimated to ship in three to four weeks, promising an arrival by at least...
peloton tv workout cardio

Apple Floated as Potential Buyer of Peloton

Friday January 21, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Following months of bleak news about Peloton's "precarious state," including the revelation that it has halted production of its bikes and treadmills, Apple is being floated as a potential buyer of Peloton's troubled fitness business. Yesterday, CNBC reported that Peloton will temporarily stop production of its connected fitness products due to a "significant reduction" in consumer demand, a ...
Spring 2022 Apple Products Feature

New iPad Air, Macs, and iPhone SE With 5G Likely to Be Announced at Apple Event This Spring

Thursday January 20, 2022 8:32 am PST by
Earlier this week, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that Apple "will be holding a spring event" to announce a new iPhone SE and other hardware. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said the event is likely to occur in March or April. Gurman did not elaborate on what "other hardware" will be announced at Apple's purported spring event, but rumors suggest at least four products are...