Apple to add Time of Flight 3D feature for 2020 iPhones

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The iPhones launching in 2020 may feature a Time of Flight sensor, which helps determine distances between objects and the lens.

According to Digitimes, Apple is in talks with its Face ID processor supplier, Lumentum, to bring a Time of Flight sensor to the rear cameras in its 2020 iPhones. Time of Flight scans in a similar way to Face ID, but rather than for very close-up identification, it's used for helping to make it faster for the iPhone to take regular photos.

A Time of Flight 3D sensor scans the area in front of the camera and calculates distances between objects and the lens, which speeds up focusing and may also help with augmented reality.

Apple has previously been reported to be planning to include Time of Flight in its 2020 iPhones. As long ago as 2017, the company was said to be investigating the use of such a laser-based system.

Assorted rumors dating back to 2017 have put the feature as coming to the 2019 iPhones. Most recently, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed that Apple will use methods such as this to improve its Face ID systems for the 2019 iPhones and iPads.

Whenever it arrives, a Time of Flight sensor will be a VCSEL, or vertical cavity surface-emitting laser, and the Digitimes report says it will be made by US firm Lumentum. Digitimes also claims that this is related to Apple's ongoing augmented reality work, despite recently claiming that the company had abandoned its AR Glasses plan.

DigiTimes has a decent track record when it regards to Apple's suppliers, but a poor one when it predicts features of Apple's products.