On the morning of Apple’s event to announce the 2018 iPhone lineup, Ming-Chi Kuo has released a report targeting the 2019 models. It’s a relatively minor comment on the rear camera of next year’s iPhones; Kuo says that unlike market consensus, he does not expect a time-of-flight depth system to be added to the 2019 iPhone rear camera.
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Obviously, a statement on the 2019 cameras also reflects on the imminent lineup. There were a few rumors earlier in the year that the 2018 phones would add a third camera on the rear, but these reports gradually died away.
Apple currently uses the offset of the two camera irises in the dual-camera module to generate a disparity map, which enables features like Portrait Mode to work.
However, a more accurate higher-resolution depth map requires a more sophisticated system like what is seen on the iPhone X’s front camera; something which can spray Infrared dots into the world and then detect how long it takes for them to bounce back.
Kuo says this technology is unlikely to make it into 2019 iPhones for several reasons. First, he says that the current Portrait Mode algorithms, based on dual-camera disparity maps, are good enough to give the results that customers desire.
In addition, other uses of rich rear-camera depth data like rich augmented reality experiences will not be ready to execute next year. Kuo says Apple is beefing up its mapping database partly to create advanced augmented reality features in the future, likely connected to the AR glasses project.
However, these initiatives are still years off. Apple has said that it will take until the end of 2019 to map the United States with its new Apple Maps tech, and there is no public international timeline.