Don’t expect 2018 iPhones to pack rear-facing 3D sensors

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iPhone 8 Plus
They're just not ready to deliver next-generation AR.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple won’t integrate rear-facing 3D sensors in this year’s iPhone lineup, according to one reliable analyst. Earlier predictions suggested the company would make the upgrade in an effort to deliver even greater augmented reality experiences.

Ming-Chi Kuo says the technology just isn’t ready for the iPhone.

A rear-facing time of flight (TOF) sensor could allow the iPhone to more accurately measure the distance between objects in the real world. This would lead to even more impressive virtual reality applications.

The only problem is that a TOF sensor good enough for the iPhone doesn’t exist yet.

Apple holds off on rear-facing 3D sensors

Kuo explains in a note to investors, obtained by AppleInsider, that existing TOF hardware isn’t capable of delivering the “revolutionary AR experience” Apple is working toward. What’s more, TOF sensors would not improve the performance of the iPhone’s camera.

Until TOF technology reaches the point where it can greatly improve AR on the iPhone, then, Apple doesn’t see a need to include it alongside its rear-facing cameras.

“We believe that iPhone’s dual-camera can simulate and offer enough distance/depth information necessary for photo-taking; it is therefore unnecessary for the 2H19 new iPhone models to be equipped with a rear-side ToF,” Kuo writes.

Apple is all-in on AR

Apple certainly isn’t giving up on AR, though. iOS 12, which will roll out to everything this fall, comes with a much-improved ARKit — and recent rumors have claimed Apple is even developing its own augmented reality headset.

Job listings have also indicated Apple is working on an AR version of Apple Maps.