Apple will launch a trio of new iPhone models later this year
with a second-generation TrueDepth camera system, which will
potentially be reduced in size, according to a research note
issued today by analysts Andrew Gardiner, Hiral Patel, Joseph
Wolf, and Blayne Curtis at investment bank Barclays.


While the analysts believe the new TrueDepth system will only
“evolve slightly,” they predict it could allow for a “smaller
notch” on the 2018 range of iPhones with Face ID, which is
rumored to include a second-generation iPhone X, a larger
iPhone X Plus, and an all-new
mid-range 6.1-inch LCD model.

MacRumors obtained a copy of the research note, which also
corroborates rumors about
Apple extending Face ID to the iPad Pro this year:

Based on several data points within the 4Q17 reporting period
and our supply chain meetings at CES, we remain confident that
Apple is set to deploy its TrueDepth 3D sensor across the
iPhone range in 2018 and to also add it to the pending iPad Pro
refresh as well.

Given the complexity and multiple years spent developing the
current generation of module, combined with supplier comments
over the past month regarding multi-year customer
commitments, we do not envisage a major change to the
architectural make-up in 2018 […]

We do expect the sensor to evolve slightly, potentially
reducing in size (i.e., smaller notch) and improving in
specificity […] helping to further drive very strong growth
[for some Apple suppliers] in 2H18 as the second generation
of sensor ships in this year’s new iPhones.

A smaller notch would be a welcomed change for
critics of the iPhone X design, but it remains to be seen if it
will happen so soon. An earlier rumor suggested the notch won’t
be reduced in size
until 2019 or later, and it’s generally expected that 2018
iPhones will look virtually identical to the iPhone X.

The prevailing thought is that Apple doesn’t want to deal with
the type of delays it faced with the iPhone X last year, and by
keeping the hardware relatively unchanged, suppliers could
avoid some retooling. However, it’s certainly possible the
TrueDepth camera system could be slightly shrunk down this
year.

Beyond this year, the Barclays analysts believe Apple is
“working hard” on a rear-facing TrueDepth camera system for
future iPhones. The technology could be ready by 2019, but it
sounds too far out to know for certain.

A key discussion point regarding 2019 is whether or not Apple
will be ready to insert a rear or world-facing sensor, given
the additional complexity associated with a greater range and
field of view and […] the potential safety implications for the
human eye.

Our discussions with suppliers suggests Apple and its
partners are working hard on a world-facing solution, but
development is ongoing and with over 18 months to go until
the 2019 iPhone cycle, not all is yet determined.

The rear-facing TrueDepth camera system would pave
the way for expanded augmented reality capabilities on iPhones.
Apple has repeatedly expressed a profound interest in augmented
reality, and recently highlighted some use cases of the
technology in areas like education and gaming with a new page on its
website.

Bloomberg News previously reported that Apple is

exploring rear-facing 3D sensing, to be added to iPhones as
early as 2019, while KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo agrees
the technology
won’t be ready in 2018, so there does appear to be
consensus about back-and-front TrueDepth being a next-year
feature.

Apple’s trio of new iPhones should be announced in September as
usual, while the new iPad Pro with Face ID could debut in June.

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