iPhone 12 is months away from its official launch but it is back in the news and this time for its camera. A new report is indicating that Apple is expected to add a "world-facing" 3D depth camera to at least one iPhone model's rear camera setup in a bid to enhance overall camera performance but more importantly, to lift its augmented reality (AR) experiences to a whole new level. Previously, we had reported that the next-generation iPhone models are rumoured to retain the triple rear camera setup that could include a 64-megapixel primary sensor as well as a Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera - which is essentially the world-facing 3D camera. World-facing is meant to refer to rear facing, where as the front camera would be front or self-facing.
If rumours are true, it is possible one of the iPhone 12 variants (most likely the Pro Max variant) will house a quad-camera setup to achieve this camera performance, though the recent report doesn't offer any specifics on this front.
As per the report by Fast Company, engineers at Apple have been working on the camera's 3D technology for at least two years. The report adds that Apple might purchase the required laser technology from San Jose-based company, Lumentum, with whom it worked with ahead of the launch of iPhone X. Lumentum's VCSELs, or vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, have been a key component of iPhone X's TrueDepth front camera that enabled several flagship features including Face ID, Animoji and Portrait mode selfies. Similar technology made its way to the front camera setups of later iPhone models as well.
But now, Apple is speculated to enhance its rear camera setup in the upcoming flagship iPhone models with the 'world-facing' 3D camera. While the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max that came out last year had three 12-megapixel cameras that allowed users to capture photos with a blurred background (commonly referred to as the bokeh effects), the 3D camera system would add depth information.
However, as Fast Company claims, Apple's main focus with the rumoured sensors is to upgrade the AR experience. Talking about the importance of depth information for AR applications, Andre Wong, Lumentum's Vice President of 3D Sensing, told the publication: "AR apps without depth information is a bit glitchy and not as powerful as it ultimately could be."
Recently it was rumoured that with the upcoming iOS 14, Apple is developing a new app which will allow users to get more information about the world around them by using the AR experience. If true, the app would be ideal for another rumoured piece of hardware from the Cupertino-based tech giant, an AR headset.
So far, Apple has not confirmed the aforementioned specifications and all this should be taken with a grain of salt. If true, world-facing 3D camera or the Time-of-Flight 3D sensor along with 64-megapixel main shooter can be expected on the rumoured iPhone 12 Pro Max variant.