Apple Inc. plans to launch iPhones with a more powerful 3-D camera next year, which will increase the company’s push toward augmented reality, according to people familiar with the plans.
The longest-range, rear-facing 3D camera is designed to scan the environment and create 3D reconstructions of the real world. It will work up to about 15 feet from the device, the people said. That’s in contrast to the iPhone’s current 3-D camera system, which is aimed at users and operates at distances of 10 to 20 inches to power Apple Face ID’s facial recognition feature.
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Apple’s new system uses a laser scanner, rather than existing point projection technology that doesn’t work as well over longer distances, according to the people, who asked not to be identified to discuss new features. That’s one of the many new features – including a more advanced third camera, improved photo capture tools and a more powerful chip – that Apple plans to include in the next generation of iPhones, the people said.
The 3-D laser camera would enhance augmented reality on the iPhone, allowing a deeper perception of depth and the placement of virtual objects. People said it could also help the phone take photos that can better capture depth. Apple has been in talks with Sony Corp. about testing sensors for the new system, one of the people said.
While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital realm, AR superimposes images and data on a vision of the real world. Use cases include looking at a building and showing details of the structure next to the image, or listing repair instructions from a mechanic while working on a faulty machine. It’s been said to have broader mass market appeal than VR, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken about its prospects.
The 2020 iPhone camera may be the prelude to an AR headset that Apple has been preparing since 2020. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s plans, which could change.
Earlier, Apple made it a point to put the new 3-D camera system on the back of higher-end iPhones this year, but delayed that, people familiar with it said. However, the Cupertino, California-based tech giant is doubling down on camera capabilities for its phones.
For 2019, Apple plans the successors to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, codenamed D42 and D43, and an update for the iPhone XR, people said. People said that the largest of the new high-end iPhones will have three cameras on the back, and other phones could also arrive with the updated system.
Cameras have become one of the most important features in a saturated smartphone market. Better photos are a compelling reason for people to upgrade their phones, especially when other new capabilities are harder to design or too difficult for most customers to appreciate. Apple pioneered smartphone camera improvements, which over the years have included additions like Portrait Mode. Rivals have been trying to catch up, with Samsung Electronics Co. launching phones with up to four exterior cameras last year.
The iPhone still generates the majority of Apple’s revenue, although sales of the devices fell last year as people increased less frequently. That caused a stock slide that wiped more than $ 300 billion from the company’s market value since October. New models with more capable cameras could spur upgrades and reignite Apple’s growth, making these upcoming iPhones the most critical in years.
A third camera on the back of the iPhone 2019 will help the device capture a wider field of view and allow for a wider zoom range. It will also capture more pixels, so Apple’s software could, for example, automatically repair a video or photo to fit a subject that may have been accidentally cut from the initial shot, according to people familiar with the plans.
The company is also planning an improved version of its Live Photos feature, which pins the before and after video of each shot to the photo. The new version will double the length of the video from three seconds to six seconds.
According to one of the people, the laser 3-D camera could debut for the first time in an update to the iPad Pro that is currently planned for spring 2020. Apple is not expected to release a major iPad Pro update this year as it does. did in 2018. Usually the line is updated in the second half of the year. Apple in the past rolled out major new features on the iPad before the iPhone, including 4G internet connectivity in 2012.
Apple is also testing some versions of this year’s iPhone lineup that include a USB-C connector instead of the Lightning port that has been used in iPhones since 2012, indicating that the company is planning an eventual change, according to one of the people. Moving to USB-C would make the new models compatible with chargers used for hundreds of other devices, such as Android phones.
People said this year’s iPhone models will include an updated Apple processor and will use an updated Face ID sensor to unlock the device and approve payments. Otherwise, the phones will look similar to current models, and larger changes are expected from 2020 to accommodate plans for 5G network capabilities. Bloomberg News Reported last year.
Beyond iPhones, Apple plans to release an updated version of its lower-cost iPad with a roughly 10-inch screen and a faster processor as early as this spring, according to people familiar with the plans. That device is expected to retain the Lightning port, according to one of the people. People are also preparing a new, cheaper iPad mini, its smallest tablet that hasn’t been updated since 2015, the people said.
Apple’s next update to Apple’s operating system, iOS 13, will include a dark mode option for easier nighttime viewing and enhancement of CarPlay, the company’s vehicle software. There will also be updates specific to the iPad, such as a new home screen, the ability to review multiple versions of a single application, such as pages in a web browser, and file management improvements. The company will also integrate two new services, including a magazine subscription service and its original video content efforts, through this year’s iOS updates.
Every year since 2012, Apple has released its latest iPhone in September. The only exception was the November launch of the iPhone X in 2017.