2020 iPhones may pack 3D laser camera

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The camera bump is about to get bumpier in the iPhone XI.
The camera bump is about to get bumpier in the iPhone XI.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

The iPhone’s augmented reality capabilities are about to ramp up to an all-new level, thanks to camera sensors that can tell how far away objects are.

TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors in a new research note that Apple is readying cameras with time-of-flight sensors. Adding the new ToF sensors should give the iPhone better computer vision. They could help take better pics, too.

Rumors of Apple adding 3D laser sensors to the back of the iPhone started surfacing earlier this year. Kuo is one of the most reliable Apple analysts, so it seems more likely at this point, though Apple could always change its plans.

“We predict that three new 2H20 iPhone models will all be equipped with front Face ID, and two of the new models will provide rear ToF,” said Kuo in his report. “We estimate that shipments of iPhone models equipped with front and rear VCSEL (front structure light and rear ToF) will be 45mn units in 2020.”

By being able to sense the distance of objects, the iPhone will be able to deliver better photo quality and offer new uses for augmented reality. Kuo sees the ToF sensors as a distinguishing feature of high-end phones next year. Huawei is also expected to add it to its top-of-the-line phone in 2020.

Kuo also sent out a research note this week claiming all 2020 iPhones will get 5G modems. Apple just paid $1 billion for Intel’s modem business. The company also secured rights to use Qualcomm’s 5G modems for six years, so it has some time to develop its own 5G modem.