Earlier this year, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall predicted that Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone would feature 3D laser sensor on the front for facial recognition. A new report from Fast Company claims there will also be a rear iPhone 8 3D laser sensor to support augmented reality and photography applications.

Apple iPhone 8 3D Laser Sensor
Concept by ValueWalk

iPhone 8 3D laser sensor to enhance AR experience, photography

The announcement of ARKit at the WWDC event last month was a clear indication that the iPhone 8 would get augmented reality applications. ARKit is basically a set of tools that allows developers to add AR experience into their apps. Inside sources familiar with the matter told Fast Company that the iPhone 8 3D laser sensor would enable a more accurate autofocus for photography and better depth detection for AR apps.

The publication added that the 10th anniversary iPhone would use a VCSEL system (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) in the rear camera. The rumor mill claims Apple will be sourcing the VCSEL components from Finisar and Lumentum. The 3D laser sensor will help enhance the precision of ARKit applications, and make it more life-like.

The VCSEL sends out beams of light and then calculates the distance the light travels from the laser to objects and back to the sensor. It then generates a Time of Flight (TOF) measurement. Fast Company said the whole setup consists of a VCSEL laser, a detector, a lens, and a processor. It would cost $2 per phone. It would allow the camera lens to better focus on a specific object.

The iPhone 8 is widely expected to get a major camera overhaul. Supply chain leaks have revealed that the dual camera system would be arranged vertically rather than horizontally. The LED flash has been placed between the two lenses. Sources told Fast Company that the iPhone 8 3D laser sensor inclusion would largely depend on the progress Apple makes in integrating the feature into the iPhone. Otherwise, it could be pushed back to 2018.

Another report from Fast Company added that there was a “sense of panic” at Apple as designers and engineers were still struggling to fix the software-related problems with facial recognition and wireless charging. If the issues continue to persist, Apple may drop these features from the iPhone 8. Fast Company claims Touch ID fingerprint sensor will “likely” be included in the iPhone 8, even though some rumors have claimed that Apple could ditch the feature in favor of facial recognition.

New patent hints at facial recognition for iPhone 8

Meanwhile, the US Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application on Thursday. The patent describes a method to unlock smartphones using facial image and depth data collected from special sensors and cameras. The patent was originally filed in 2013. It lends credibility to rumors that facial recognition could debut with the iPhone 8.

The method involves an infra-red sensor, a visible light sensor, and a 3D capture system to capture 2D image and depth data of your face. The patent document also mentioned the use of a laser scanner, a UV sensor, and an ultrasound sensor. It is not yet known whether Apple would use the same technology or a different one for facial recognition.

The iPhone 8 will reportedly pack many new features. The device would have a 5.8-inch bezel-less OLED display that would fit in the same form factor as the 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Other rumored features include wireless charging, waterproofing, and sealed buttons on the side that would respond with haptic feedback. It is said to be the biggest iPhone design overhaul in years.

iPhone 8 shipment to be delayed by 3-4 weeks

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts told investors that the iPhone 8 launch would be delayed by 3-4 weeks due to technical challenges. The handset could be unveiled in September along with the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, but shipments may not begin until October/November. The research firm blamed problems with 3D sensors and fingerprint scanner for the delay.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts have also reduced their iPhone shipment estimates by 11 million units for the year. The research firm maintained its Buy rating on the stock, though. For FY2017, analysts reduced their shipment estimates by 11 million to 208.1 million units. December quarter estimates have also been revised down by six million units. However, they expect the shipments to jump to 243 million units in 2018.

It is unclear what the 10th anniversary iPhone would be called. While the rumor mill and media are still using the “iPhone 8” moniker, some claim that it could be called iPhone X, iPhone Edition, or simply Apple iPhone. If Apple releases iPhone 8 alongside the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus this year, what would it call the 2018 successors to the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus? The company wouldn’t want to release iPhone 8S, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus in the same year.