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Apple iPhone in 2019 might adopt Sony's ToF sensor for 3D mapping: Report

It is likely that Apple will use 3D ToF sensors on the rear side of the device and not at the front.

  • Published: January 2, 2019 12:48 PM IST

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Apple’s next major iPhone is not expected to bring any major design changes and is expected to focus on improving the overall experience. A report recently said that Apple is expected to stick with the edge-to-edge display design and notched display at least until 2020. Now, a new report shines a light on as to why Apple would be planning to stick with the same design language. One of the major changes with iPhone models launching this year could use Sony’s 3D time-of-flight technology as replacement to dot projector seen on Face ID implementation of iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

The first signs of such a move came in November when Bloomberg reported that Apple will adopt 3D ToF technology for rear-facing TruDepth camera. The current method on Apple’s FaceID technology relies on 30,000 laser dots projected to map the 3D characteristics of a face. The report said Apple will instead switch to time-of-flight technology, which measures the time it takes for a laser to bounce off a subject to create a 3D map. The technology is believed to be cheaper and easier to mass produce than the dot projector system used by Apple right now.

Now, a new report from Bloomberg states that Apple has expressed interest in new 3D camera sensors that Sony started production in summer. These chips use the time-of-flight technology to help maps images in 3D and there are already smartphones launched with such a technology in the rear as well as front camera system. Satoshi Yoshihara told the publication that several smartphone makers have expressed their interest in these chips. “Cameras revolutionized phones, and based on what I’ve seen, I have the same expectation for 3D. The pace will vary by field, but we’re definitely going to see adoption of 3D. I’m certain of it,” Satoshi Yoshihara, General Manager, Sony said.

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This report contradicts prediction from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International, who does not see Apple adopting time-of-flight tech any time soon. He says that the current generation of dual camera system found on iPhone is capable of “simulating and offering enough distance/depth information necessary for capturing photos.” Kuo thinks it would be unnecessary for Apple to add such a sensor to its 2019 iPhone models but there are rumors of iPhone models coming with triple rear camera setup and one of those additional sensor could be for time-of-flight 3D mapping.

  • Published Date: January 2, 2019 12:48 PM IST

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