The next iPhone will have an advanced camera that can scan 3-D objects, Barclays says

Key Points
  • Barclays semiconductor analysts said on Thursday that Apple's new iPhones will have a new FaceID sensor, which is used for facial recognition.
  • It also said the high-end Pro models of the 2020 iPhones will have new time of flight camera sensors.
  • The new camera sensors can create 3D images and may be used to improve portrait pictures and augmented reality apps.
Apple CEO Tim Cook visits an Apple store in Shanghai, China.
Aly Song | Reuters

Barclays' semiconductor analysts said in a note to investors on Thursday that Apple's new iPhones, which are expected to launch this fall, will have a new version of Face ID and fancy new 3D camera sensors.

Apple's Face ID, its facial recognition system used to unlock the iPhone without a fingerprint, was changed in the 2019 iPhones, too, and is now faster than before. Barclays said that Face ID will be "refreshed," but doesn't mention new features.

Barclays also said the high-end "Pro" models of Apple's 2020 iPhones, which will succeed the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, will have new time of flight (ToF) 3D depth camera sensors. These can help iPhones create 3D maps of rooms and may also help Apple improve its augmented reality (AR) applications.

AR allows Apple and developers to overlay digital objects on top of the real world, but it works best when the iPhone is able to understand the room it's in.

ToF is already used in some Samsung phones, such as the Galaxy Note 10+. Samsung has demonstrated how the sensors can be used to capture a picture of an object and then quickly create a 3D model. So, someone with a 3D printer at home might be able to print a replica.

And since ToF provides depth data, it could also be used to improve portrait images on iPhones. Those are the types of images where the subject remains in focus while the background is blurred. With more depth information, Apple could make those pictures even clearer and avoid some instances where the camera improperly blurs part of the person in the foreground of a picture.

TF Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo, a top Apple analyst with an excellent track record of predicting future Apple gadgets, first said in July that Apple is planning to include the new time of flight sensors for its pro-model iPhones. The 2020 iPhones will also include support for new 5G networks in the U.S., according to Kuo.

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