Apple may be able to give the iPhone a makeover in the camera department. New renderings published Sunday reveal the company’s next smartphone design, expected to be unveiled sometime in the fall, could be the first time Apple has placed three cameras on the rear of the device. The new design could boost the phone’s augmented reality features, paving the way for more ambitious apps.
The design, detailed by leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer and published on Digital India, shows an enlarged camera bump on the rear, moving the quad-LED flash to the corner and placing a third lens directly below. The result is a somewhat bizarre arrangement that transforms the camera bump into a giant square on the rear. It’s unclear what the third lens may do, but previous additions have opened up new functionality: the second lens, added with the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016, enabled support for “Portrait Mode” that blurs the background of photo subjects.
One possibility is better support for augmented reality apps. A report last month claimed that Apple has expressed interest in Sony’s 3D sensing camera that uses “time of flight” to shoot a laser and time how long it takes to bounce back, enabling the phone to better judge the distance to nearby objects. Satoshi Yoshihara, head of the firm’s sensor team, said at the time that “cameras revolutionized phones, and based on what I’ve seen, I have the same expectation for 3D.”
Apple has expressed intoerest in augmented reality, but this would take it to a new level. iOS 11 introduced “ARKit,” a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps. The Ikea design app was one of the first beneficiaries, enabling buyers to preview furniture in their homes. Sony has demonstrated its 3D sensors, which can scan objects up to five meters away, with a magic game where users can shoot out spells with their hand.
While the above design may not be final, it adds fuel to suggestions that Apple is planning a big move into augmented reality. An August 2018 report claimed that Apple may launch a standalone set of glasses as early as 2020.
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