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Himax reportedly joining 3D sensor supply chain for 'iPhone 8'

Rumors of 3D-sensing features being included in Apple's rumored OLED iPhone are continuing to grow, with the Taiwanese Himax Technologies reportedly joining the supply chain for the device, providing glass for a module constructed by Lumentum.

Component supplier Lumentum will allegedly provide the 3D-sensing modules for the iPhone 8, according to DigiTimes, with the front camera system offering both 3D sensing and 3D modeling capabilities. This could be used as part of a facial recognition system or, as sources suggest, virtual reality and augmented reality functions.

The module in question will use VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser)-based DOE (diffractive optical elements) for the camera, claims the report. The sources claim the module will use a chip-on-glass (COG) construction, with Himax handling the glass component design, and backend partner ChipMOS also providing assistance.

Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley analyst Charlie Chan wrote about the possibility of Himax injecting itself into the 3D sensing component supply chain. In a note received by Barron's, Chan writes that Himax's wafer level optics (WLO) technology can further reduce the size and fit the 3D sensing in smartphones.

Chan suggests Himax's work on 3D sensing technology will make up 20 percent of the firm's revenue in 2018, supposedly helping to fill the vacuum of its AR smart glasses business until an expected resurgence in 2019. Apple's interest in 3D sensing has also made Chan more optimistic about the technology being used in smartphones produced by competitors in the future.

On March 20, Lumentum was also identified by another analyst as a supplier for the iPhone 8. Timothy Arcuri of Cowen & Company claimed Lumentum and Finistar were providing laser emitters for the device, with Heptagon/AMS tapped for a new infrared sensor, and STM for the camera's CMOS sensor.

Apple is expected to ship three new iPhones this fall, including the "iPhone 8," and two "7s" models using 4.7- and 5.5-inch LCDs like the iPhone 7. All three are expected to offer wireless charging, as well as faster wired charging via Lightning.

The "iPhone 8" will likely use a 5.8-inch OLED display, with about 0.7 inches of that being dedicated to virtual buttons replacing a physical one. It may also offer 3D facial recognition, and possibly a new form of fingerprint sensor.