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Best apps for testing and experiencing LiDAR on your new iPhone 12 Pro

IKEA Place
IKEA Place (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore)

The second-generation 11-inch iPad Pro, fourth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and now the iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max offer a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner that will play a huge role in Apple's augmented reality initiatives in the years to come.

Here's more about LiDAR and apps you can use right now on your new iPad Pro to test the technology.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR uses light to measure distance using invisible pulsating green spectrum lasers. These pulses (which occur thousands of times per minute) measure how long it takes for the light to get back to the sensor. By doing so, it paints a "picture" of the environment in front of the scanner.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro back camera

Apple iPhone 12 Pro back camera (Image credit: Apple)

As Russell Holly initially explained, "in larger deployments, like cars and airplanes, LiDAR systems can offer a living snapshot of things at multiple depths in order to offer a computer a similar perception of depth we have in human eyes."

In doing so, "This makes it possible for the computer to 'see' far enough away that it's safe to use while the vehicle is in motion, which is great. But it's efficacy is determined by power output and size, so the smaller the sensor the shorter its effective distance of measurement."

It's almost certain Apple's long-term plans for LiDAR will eventually extend well beyond the iPad Pro. In the meantime, the high-end tablet will nicely serve as a hardware testing ground for developers and users alike.

At the heart of this testing is ARKit 3.5 (opens in new tab), which was released soon after the new iPad Pro was announced. The update takes advantage of the LiDAR Scanner and depth-sensing system on the iPad Pro to support a new generation of AR apps.

Test LiDAR with these apps

Here are some impressive LiDAR apps you can use right now to test the new LiDAR Scanner on your 2020 iPad Pro or iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max:

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AR King

Snapchat plans on introducing a LiDAR-powered lens for the new iPhone 12 Pro models. It will be interesting to see just how quickly its library of options grows. Because of Snapchat's popularity, this could be the app that propels LiDAR to a full new level.

Apple previewed Snapchat's new LiDAR features during its October 13 iPhone 12 event. Check it out here:

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Ditch your measuring stick

Long popular, Apple's Measure app makes it easy to gauge the size of real objects, a person's height, and the dimensions of rectangular objects.

You can use Measure's new horizontal and vertical guidelines when measuring large objects for more comfortable and more accurate measurements. The app also can instantly measure a person's height from the floor to the top of their head, hair, or hat. You can also save measurements from a single session and complete with screenshots, so they're easy to access and share whenever you need them.

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See what's inside you

An Apple Design Award Winner, this app is prevalent at 250 of the world's top universities, include 20 of the world's top 25 ranked medical schools. (iPad only)

The world's most accurate, most advanced, and best-selling 3D anatomy platform uses new technology, models, and content. It's not just an atlas as it is also an anatomy learning platform with unique collaboration and learning tools. On the iPad Pro, you can now study and take measures with a real human being and use that information to visualize and understand muscle movement and more.

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Design your dream home

Use the app to create floor plans with the precision and speed of iPad Pro and iPhone 12. Unlock more tools with a Pro subscription.

The RoomScan LiDAR 2.0 update takes advantage of iOS 14 to create stunning 3D experiences. See your whole home as a scale model on your desk, or walk through it in AR.

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Professional modeling in your hands

3D modeling has never looked as great as it does in this excellent freemium app. (iPad only)

Engineers, industrial designers, architects, and creators have long considered Shapr 3D for CAD modeling on a mobile device. LiDAR pushing this into fun, new directions.

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Change things

Will that new chair look beautiful in your living room? How about the bed you've been eyeing? Now you know before you buy!

Most of the other apps on this list focus on business use for LiDAR. IKEA Place, however, is all about consumers making their homes look better. Use the app to virtually place true-to-scale 3D models in your very own space. Combining the latest AR technology and IKEA's smart home solutions, you can experience IKEA like never before.

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Yes, it's hot inside

Your home looks the same except for the hot molten lava currently moving around in your living room. Can you save the world around you?

Hot Lava uses AR to transform the space around you into game challenges. Along the way, you don't have to avoid the lava. There's also toxic waste, bottomless pits, and many more obstacles that look real, especially next to your family pet or television!

Other opportunities

As a new iPad Pro owner, there are other resources you can use to experience the LiDAR Scanner. You should also check out Apple's Reality Composer (opens in new tab), which lets you quickly prototype and produce content for AR experience.

For something else, check out this Apple webpage (opens in new tab) directly from your device and watch the objects comes to life right before your eyes.


As more LiDAR apps are discovered that show promise, we'll update this post. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about the new tool below.

Did you recently purchase an iPhone 12? Check out our favorite cases.

Updated: Includes information on iPhone 12 Pro/iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.