The U.K. company rumored to be producing wafers for the laser diodes for the iPhone 8’s 3D tracking technology has seen its share price treble this year.
The lesser-known company IQE, based in Wales, has neither confirmed or denied its relationship with Apple, but has reported a “significant ramp” in demand for “VCSEL” laser components, which it says will be used for “mass market consumer applications.”
The 3D sensors are likely to be used by Apple for either facial recognition, augmented reality, or autofocus (or all three!) applications for the next-gen iPhone.
Apple has been ramping up its augmented reality efforts with the introduction of ARKit at WWDC back in June. While ARKit works well enough using the existing iPhone camera, the addition of a laser sensor means that depth measurement would be significantly improved. Apple’s own leaks have also seemingly confirmed the presence of facial recognition to unlock in the next-gen iPhone.
While Apple is expected to use a number of laser suppliers, it will reportedly buy its wafers from IQE. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper:
“[IQE] has an 80pc market share in compound semiconductor wafers, which are faster and more efficient than the silicon wafers used in most sensors and microchips, and are especially suited to carrying light signals.”
The iPhone 8 is scheduled to make its debut next month, alongside the more affordable iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus. However, the iPhone 8’s actual shipping could be delayed several weeks due to challenges in the manufacturing process.