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Apple supplier Finisar to scale VCSEL production, suggests Face ID coming to all iPhones in 2018

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Apple's second largest supplier of vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) arrays, Finisar, announced the acquisition of a 700,000-square foot plant on Thursday, a move that suggests TrueDepth and Face ID are coming to all iPhones in 2018.

Finisar announced the purchase on Thursday during an earnings report covering the October 2017 quarter, reports Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster. The plant located in Sherman, Tex., is expected to become operational in the second half of 2018 and will allow the firm to greatly expand output for companies like Apple.

Given the timing of the Sherman plant acquisition and subsequent go live date, and considering other financial revelations, Apple is likely preparing to incorporate TrueDepth and Face ID into all 2018 iPhone models, Munster said.

Apple utilizes VCSEL arrays to power the TrueDepth camera and, subsequently, Face ID in iPhone X. Sometimes referred to as structured light modules, VCSEL components make up the dot projector in Apple's 3D modeling apparatus, which also includes an infrared flood illuminator, and infrared camera and color cameras.

Finisar revealed VCSEL revenue was in the "low-single-digit millions" for the quarter, but that figure is anticipated to grow to "tens of millions" of dollars per quarter starting in January, Munster said. The analyst notes that once the firm's operation is at full capacity, it will see revenues from VCSEL sales hit $30 million. By comparison, Lumentum, Apple's largest VCSEL supplier, saw revenues hit $40 million in September quarter.

Judging by Finisar's announcements, Munster believes the firm received final qualification from Apple, meaning large quantity shipments should begin next year. The additional VCSEL output will not only go toward next-generation iPhones, but also help alleviate current iPhone X supply constraints thought to be tied in part to the TrueDepth camera system.

Munster's predictions echo those of well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who last month said Apple would completely ditch Touch ID for Face ID with its 2018 iPhone lineup. Kuo believes Apple is preparing a trio of handsets for release next year, including a refreshed iPhone X, a massive 6.5-inch OLED variant and 6.1-inch LCD model aimed at budget-minded buyers.