iPhone 12 AR Camera has to be about more than just the ToF tech

Supply chain exfiltrator extraordinaire Kuo Ming-Chi added more fuel to the 3D sensing rear camera rumor fire for the iPhone 12. That's the 2020, not 2021 iPhone for those trying to keep track at home. Specifically, time-of-flight or ToF systems.

Via MacRumors:

We predict that three new 2H20 iPhone models will all be equipped with front Face ID, and two of the new models will provide rear ToF. We estimate that shipments of iPhone models equipped with front and rear VCSEL (front structure light and rear ToF) will be 45mn units in 2020.

Last year, on the eve of the iPhone XS event, Kuo said ToF wouldn't be appearing in the iPhone 11 due to the lack of benefits over the current portrait mode system, and the need for 5G networking to make for revolutionary augmented reality experiences. Which… I mean, super 5G thirsty but whatever.

This past January, Mark Gurman and Debby Wu of Bloomberg targeted the iPhone 12 for time of flight, saying:

The rear-facing, longer-range 3-D camera is designed to scan the environment to create three-dimensional reconstructions of the real world. It will work up to about 15 feet from the device

And I'll add in once again that I've been hearing scuttlebutt about how cool this rear AR camera system and software is for years, and I just want to see it ship already… but only when it's good and ready.

That absolutely includes use-cases beyond just putting Animoji on your friends or having licenses characters dancing through your elsies. If the last half-decade of computational photography has been about allowing tiny phone cameras to do what giant DLSRs having been doing forever, the next half-decade will be about going beyond that.

Not just with time-of-flight sensors. Those are chipsets and, historically, Apple doesn't ship chipsets. They ship feature sets. No NFC chip. Apple Pay feature. No ultra-wide lens, optical zoom out and smart framing.

No time-of-flight sensor but… complete photo recomposition? let me know what you think in the comments.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.