It looks like Apple could up the ante when it comes to the camera in the 2019 iPhone, and is reportedly considering including three camera lenses in the flagship 2019 iPhone, which could help introduce a whole new set of features. Several reports have circulated over the past months, stating Apple is at least looking into how a triple-lens camera could work on the iPhone.
The latest comes from Deutsche Securities analyst Lu Jialin, who expects Apple to replace its existing twin-lens system with a three-lens camera, incorporating two stereo vision lenses and a telephoto lens. This would allow the cameras to understand 3D space, in a similar way to the iPhone X’s TrueDepth front camera, and could help Apple introduce augmented reality features on the new phone. The stereoscopic vision system is an alternative to a time-of-flight (ToF) system that uses lasers to calculate space and distances.
Before this, Taiwanese publication Economic News Daily also discussed a triple-lens iPhone, claiming each of the three lenses in the device could sit in at 12 megapixels. In 2017, Bloomberg reported Apple was examining a 3D-sensing rear camera for a future iPhone, but didn’t discuss three lenses, and instead said the setup would use time-of-flight technology. It may be that research since then has pushed Apple toward the three-lens stereoscopic camera discussed by Deutsche Securities.
What would the triple lens camera do? The 3D sensing ability would immediately lend itself to augmented reality use. Apple is very interested in AR, and already has its ARKit software development package in circulation. The introduction of a 3D sensing camera on the back of a future iPhone would also mean the phone would benefit from two such systems, provided Apple didn’t replace the front-facing TrueDepth camera with something new. Outside of augmented reality, the sensors could provide additional camera-related features, including a greater zoom mode and increased detail in photos.
The added lens could come in response to increased competition from smartphone manufacturers when it comes to smartphone cameras. The Huawei P20 Pro is the first mainstream smartphone with three camera lenses on the back, with startling results. It’s made up of a 40-megapixel sensor, a 20-megapixel sensor, and an 8-megapixel sensor, all of which are used for different purposes. The 8-megapixel sensor, for example, is a telephoto lens, while the 20-megapixel sensor is a monochrome lens used to sharpen images and create more detailed photos.
It’s important to note that this rumor doesn’t relate to the next iPhone — which will launch in the fall of this year — but rather the 2019 iPhone model, which we expect to launch in the fall of 2019.
Updated on May 29: Added new details from Deutsche Securities, and 2017 report from Bloomberg.