Why iPad’s Center Stage is probably never coming to iPhone


iPad’s Center Stage is the best thing to happen to video conferencing
iPhone is unlikely to get Center Stage, Apple’s brilliant addition to video conferencing.
Photo: Apple

Center Stage is a brilliant feature that lets an iPad’s front-facing camera follow someone on a video call. Center Stage is not available for iPhone, though. And apparently, it never will be.

Apple developed an alternative version called DockKit, but this requires an add-on accessory.

Center Stage is so amazing

With Center Stage, the front-facing camera acts like it’s moving, even when it’s not.

The effect uses a 12MP wide-angle camera to keep the user-centered during video calls as they move from side to side and up and down. The camera is capturing a 122‑degree field of view but is only showing a segment of that — the segment that includes the user. Plus, it can zoom in and out.

Center Stage is why I use my iPad to make FaceTime calls whenever possible. It is like having a camera operator that always makes sure I’m in the frame.

The feature is part of all Apple’s recent tablets, including iPad Pro and iPad Air … even the budget iPad 10. And it’s available on many Macs connected to an Apple Studio Display.

But it’s not in any iPhone. Not even the Pro models.

DockKit in iOS 17 is good too, but …

It seems like iPhone users get DockKit instead of Center Stage. According to Apple, DockKit “determines how to best position the iPhone camera to frame and track objects, with improved person tracking using combined body and face tracking for human subjects.”

Sounds a lot like CenterStage, right? The difference is that DockKit requires a stand capable of moving the iPhone so the camera keeps pointing at the user.

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro
Belkin’s new iPhone stand pans and tilts to keep the camera following you.
Photo: Belkin

Apple announced the feature as part of iOS 17 at WWDC2023. However, nobody one paid much attention to it because there weren’t any DockKit-compatible stands yet. That changed with the recent launch of Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro.

It takes full advantage of DockKit, and can hold up an iPhone, rotate and tilt to keep the camera focused on the user during video calls or when recording TikTok videos. It’s actually a little more capable than Center Stage because the user can walk all the way around the iPhone without stopping the recording.

Belkin first demonstrated the power of its Auto-Tracking Stand Pro to me by using it in a video call before telling me the device existed. I assumed the Belkin rep was using Center Stage until I found out about the stand.

iPhone Center Stage and DockKit would be redundant

Apple introduced Center Stage back in 2021 and, as noted, has yet to include it in any iPhone. Meanwhile, DockKit has been added to iOS, a feature that would be 95% unnecessary if iPhone had Center Stage. The implication is that Apple doesn’t plan to bring Center Stage to iPhone.

The missing feature is a front-facing wide-angle camera. Perhaps there’s no room for one in the very tight confines of a handset chassis. There’s more room inside a tablet for extra hardware.

Please note that the possibility that there’ll never be a version of Center Stage for iPhone is only a theory, based heavily on the assumption that DockKit was created to make up for the lack. Maybe Apple will pull a surprise and iPhone 18 will include the necessary front-facing wide-angle camera and Center Stage.

If that’s the plan, then Apple is throwing Belkin under the bus — Center Stage makes DockKit and the Auto-Tracking Stand Pro mostly unnecessary. But I don’t think that’s likely.


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