- Apple‘s 2020 iPhone may have a new 3D camera for offering advanced augmented reality, according to Bloomberg, a capability that could lay the foundation for other AR hardware products.
- With cameras better suited for AR and 5G support, Apple’s next generation seems like it could be more about future-proofing the iPhone with up-and-coming technologies rather than focusing on features that are useful in the near term.
- Apple is also said to be working on an AR headset that could be released next year, and it’s next iPhone could help generate excitement for the technology.
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About a month ago, Apple unveiled its latest additions to the iPhone lineup: the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and and iPhone 11 Pro Max. While all three phones introduce noteworthy updates when it comes to camera quality and performance – particularly for those upgrading from older models like the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7 – it’s next year’s iPhone that will signal a more significant change for Apple’s mobile devices.
That’s because Apple’s 2020 flagship is expected to include technologies and features that will be about much more than just taking better photos in the dark or enhancing performance. If the current reports and rumours are to be believed, the next-generation iPhone will be more about setting the stage for what’s to come for Apple’s smartphones – and perhaps the industry at large – rather than new features that are immediately useful.
Among the biggest changes that’s expected to come with Apple’s 2020 iPhones is the introduction of a more sophisticated three-dimensional camera, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu. Such a camera system would include a laser scanner to create 3D replicas of the real world, boosting the iPhone’s augmented-reality capabilities. With the new 3D camera, the iPhone would be better at placing virtual objects in augmented reality and would offer enhanced depth perception, according to Bloomberg.
Apple’s iPhones have supported augmented-reality applications for years, and the company made its first big push into AR when it launched ARKit in 2016 – a set of tools to help mobile developers build high-quality AR apps.
But despite the advancements that Apple has implemented in recent years – such as advanced people occlusion in ARKit 3 to better account for the people and objects around you – the iPhone’s augmented-reality performance will always be at least somewhat dictated by the hardware it runs on. As such, the iPhone could get a major performance boost when it comes to AR if Apple does indeed give it an upgraded 3D camera system.
Laying the foundation
You may be wondering why such an improvement would be a big deal for the next iPhone, especially considering the technology is still nascent. The answer is less about immediate practicality and more about what it could mean for Apple’s product lineup in the future.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly voiced his interest in augmented reality, saying he views it as being more important in the long term than virtual reality. On the company’s first-quarter earnings call in 2018, Cook said he sees AR as being “profound,” adding that it has the potential to “amplify human performance” rather than isolating people. He made similar remarks the prior year on an earnings call, saying that it could “change the way we use technology forever.”
Regardless of whether the rumours and reports about the next iPhone end up being true, it’s clear that Apple views augmented reality as being a critical emerging technology. And if AR does become an increasingly important part of the iPhone in 2020, Apple’s next smartphone could also help lay the foundation for what may be Apple’s next big hardware product – an augmented-reality headset.
Apple could even release augmented-reality-headset accessories for the iPhone in the second quarter of next year, according to a recent report from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo which 9to5Mac obtained. Kuo’s report indicates that Apple could work with third-party companies on such accessories, while an earlier report from Bloomberg in 2017 shared details on Apple’s plans for a standalone AR headset with its own screen, chip, and operating system. That device could launch sometime in 2020, the report said.
Building more advanced augmented reality into the iPhone – a device that millions of people all over the world are already using – could help Apple drum up anticipation for a dedicated AR device.
Augmented reality aside, Apple’s 2020 iPhone is expected to come with another update that’s critical to the iPhone’s future: 5G support. While 5G compatibility isn’t a must-have feature for today’s smartphones considering it can only be found in a handful of cities in the US, it’s only going to become more important over the next two to three years.
Of course it’s impossible to know exactly what Apple has planned for its next iPhone – or any other future products – until it publicly debuts them. But if Apple is betting on AR as being its next major computing platform, there’s a chance the next iPhone may give us a preview of what that experience will be like.