Apple's 2020 iPhones will have a 3D ToF sensor on the back

Peter, 18 July 2019

Some 2019 iPhones will have a triple camera, but not a 3D ToF sensor. That will change next year as Apple has reportedly contacted manufacturers of key components for such sensors.

Insiders are speculating that the 3D ToF sensor will be added to the back of the phone, to enhance the AR functionality on iPhone 12 models, continuing the work started with ARKit 2 on iOS 12 (iOS 13 is bringing ARKit 3).

Plus, it will improve depth-based effects like bokeh and lighting effects in the camera app.

Apple's 2020 iPhones will have a 3D ToF sensor on the back

This sensor will be able to measure distances up to 4.5m away (15ft), longer than what current sensors on Android phones can manage. Apple was specifically looking for VCSEL components, which are what provide the pulses of light used by ToF sensors.

Note that the current 3D sensor on iPhones – the TrueDepth system – is based on structured light rather than time of flight (“ToF”). Time of flight modules offer greater accuracy and longer range, plus they handle sunlight better.

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Reader comments

More advanced? Yes. Better though? No.

  • Anonymous

But still Nokia 9 PureView will beat it

  • D. Trump

Wow! This is new! Plenty of reason to stay with apple. Innovation really started in our land, others should follow. Kudos to apple