Report: Apple's New 'World-Facing' 3D Camera Coming to At Least One iPhone This Year

For some time now, rumors have suggested Apple will add a laser-powered time-of-flight (ToF) 3D rear camera to its iPhone 12 series, which will bring significant improvements in the form of new augmented reality experiences and better photos.


A report on Wednesday by Fast Company adds to those rumors, citing sources familiar with Apple's plans. According to the report, Apple has tapped 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 component of Apple's TrueDepth camera since the iPhone X in 2017. The lasers power several flagship features like Face ID, Animoji and Portrait mode selfies, as well as the proximity-sensing capabilities of AirPods. However, a ToF camera system is a major step up from TrueDepth due to its more advanced use of laser.

TrueDepth 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. By contrast, ToF calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a 3D image of the environment. This allows for more accurate depth perception and better placement of virtual objects, and should also result in photos better able to capture depth.

Apple has sourced VCSELs for its TrueDepth cameras from Lumentum before, but the California-based firm has typically shared the spoils of Apple's business with other suppliers in previous years, and Fast Company's source appears to be suggesting they will be Apple's exclusive VCSEL supplier this time around. Lumentum is believed to have been ramping up additional manufacturing capacity for VCSELs and edge-emitting lasers since at least March 2018.

Multiple sources have claimed that Apple's 2020 iPhones will include a laser-powered time-of-flight 3D rear camera that will result in significant improvements to AR experiences, including Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Those rumors indicated that two higher-end iPhones coming this year will use the new time-of-flight rear camera, indicating that it may not be available in the lower-end iPhones that are going to have a lower price tag.

Rumors suggest a 6.7-inch ‌iPhone‌ and one 6.1-inch model will be higher-end OLED devices with triple-lens cameras, while the 5.4 and 6.1-inch models will be lower-end iPhones with dual-lens cameras and a more affordable price tag. All iPhones in 2020 are expected to feature OLED displays regardless of price.

In related developments, a report earlier this week claimed that Apple is planning to introduce a new augmented reality app in iOS 14, which is codenamed Gobi. The app is said to allow users to "get more information about the world around them" through AR.

The app may feature integrations with Apple Stores and Starbucks, which suggests users could do something like hold up an ‌iPhone‌ in an Apple Store to view information about products.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
7 months ago
That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.

You don't have to hold it that way the whole time. The example they are giving is with directions. Even when using Maps for walking directions today, I look at the phone to see where I'm going and then hold it normally.

But you have to start somewhere. This tech will obviously eventually be built in as option for glasses (or some other forward facing sensor) that can wirelessly connect to your phone to give you prompts or let you see the info without walking around with your phone raised.

I'd be okay with raising my phone at a monument, building, whatever and having it be scanned and then giving me info about what I'm looking at. More than a nice gimmick IMHO.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


That'll be a nice gimmick to play with and show off to your friends.

And then never use again.

Noone holds their phones this way when navigating around.

What about geocaching ('https://www.geocaching.com/play')? All revolutionary technologies are introduced before the ecosystem is ready.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago
I can't wait until this is built into the the iPad Pro 12.9"
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


I like that concept phone in that rendered image.. Would buy that any day over my 11 pro max..
After having a look at how thin bezels do S20 series have, I phones so called all screen phones have started looking dated..
It's been same design for last 3 years..

It may look dated, but trust me, you don't want to trade the Face ID on iPhone for the in display fps on the Samsung S series that is currently out. I have an 11 Pro and an S20. I really enjoy both phones very much but that fps is often pokey and fails a lot. Even Android friendly reviewers complain about it.

What I hope is that side button scanners get improved and implemented, at least on future Samsungs.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
7 months ago


That would be really asinine if Apple makes their most expensive iPhone 12 model notchless while cheaper models retain the notch.

The notch design is without a doubt the most disgusting product ever produced by Apple.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

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...

iOS 14 Picture in Picture No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website in Safari [Without Premium]

Friday September 18, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. When Picture in Picture was working with YouTube The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched...

Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Friday September 18, 2020 1:19 pm PDT by
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch. Apple Watch Series 6 & Apple Watch SE Hands-On! When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like...

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

iOS 14.2 Beta Adds New Shazam Music Recognition Feature for Control Center

Thursday September 17, 2020 3:36 pm PDT by
Apple today released the first beta of iOS 14.2 to developers for testing purposes, and the new update introduces a Music Recognition control for the Control Center. The new feature lets you discover music playing around you and it recognizes the music playing with in apps, even when you're wearing AirPods. Songs pop up as notifications, and you can tap to listen in Apple Music....

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Rumor Report Card: Assessing the Accuracy of Leaks After Apple's Event

Friday September 18, 2020 12:57 pm PDT by
Apple hosted its virtual "Time Flies" event this week, where it introduced four new products, including the Apple Watch Series 6, lower-cost Apple Watch SE, a 10.9-inch iPad Air with an all-screen design, and an updated 10.2-inch iPad with a faster A12 Bionic chip. As expected, there were no new iPhones, which are believed to be coming in October instead. Apple also announced that it will be ...

Epic Games Announces 'Fortnite: Save the World' Will No Longer Be Playable on macOS

Friday September 18, 2020 4:50 am PDT by
Epic Games has announced that "Fortnite: Save the World" will no longer be playable on macOS, after Apple terminated Epic Games' developer account. Fortnite has been in violation of the ‌App Store‌ rules since August 13, when it introduced a direct payment option that skirted Apple's in-app purchase system by allowing payments directly to ‌Epic Games‌. Shortly after Epic blatantly...

Deals: Cellular Carriers Introduce First Offers on Apple Watch Series 6 and SE

Friday September 18, 2020 7:43 am PDT by
With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE today, cellular carriers have now introduced special offers for these new wearable devices. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Starting with AT&T, if you buy one Apple Watch Series 3, Series...