Following Huawei and Samsung, there are rumors that Apple will launch at least one three-camera rear-facing iPhone in 2019. The model is now considered a successor to the iPhone XS Max, and even the so-called three-camera rendering has surfaced.
From the rendering map, it is rumored that the 2019 high-end iPhone model will have a larger camera module, including three cameras arranged triangularly, an LED flash and a microphone. Such weird designs are not common in Apple's hardware. The question is, what can the new third camera on the iPhone do?
If the rumors are true, the new third camera on the iPhone will have several potential advantages, including advanced 3D sensing, increased optical zoom, improved low-light performance and improved photo quality, thanks in general to more collection of light and color data.
Advanced 3D Sensor
Apple has repeatedly expressed strong interest in augmented reality technology. The release of ARKit immediately enabled hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads to use augmented reality technology, but Apple has just started in this area.
The third camera may achieve a significant improvement in the 3-D spatial recognition of the iPhone. A report last year showed that the post-sensor function would be more advanced than the pre-TrueDepth system on the iPhone X, and would enable more augmented reality usage in more scenarios. According to the same report, the three-camera system will be able to achieve stereo imaging, and two of the sensors will be able to capture images of individual objects from different angles. The triangulation method will then be used to obtain the distance between the iPhone and the object.
As early as 2017, Bloomberg News reported that Apple planned to add a post-3-D sensor to its iPhone, which was launched in 2019. But the report said at the time that Apple was evaluating a time-of-flight method that could calculate the time required for a laser to bounce back from a surrounding object to create a 3D image of the environment.
Whatever approach Apple uses, the third camera will undoubtedly improve the enhanced reality capabilities of the iPhone. This also laid the foundation for the rumor that Apple AR glasses will be released in 2020.
Increasing optical zoom
A third camera may triple the optical zoom of the iPhone for the first time, allowing users to zoom in the viewfinder three times, rather than reducing image quality like digital zoom. By contrast, the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, XS and Max have twice the optical zoom function.
Huawei's P20 Pro is the first smartphone equipped with a rear three-camera system, including an 8-megapixel long-focus camera, a 40-megapixel main camera and a 20-mega black-and-white sub-camera, which can achieve three times the optical zoom.
Improving imaging quality
The third camera on the iPhone (if it's a traditional sensor) will absorb extra light to improve the performance of the device in low-light scenes. Undoubtedly, Apple has invested a lot of money in the algorithm of taking photos on the iPhone. For example, on the latest iPhone, smart HDR mode allows photos to have more highlights and shadows in detail, while depth of field control significantly improves portrait mode.
Google's new Night Sight mode on Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sets the standard for dim light photos, but it chooses the right color according to the image content through machine learning. As a result, photographs taken in darker light are brighter without the need for a camera flash.
With a third camera and improved machine learning capabilities, Apple may be able to implement a feature comparable to Google's Night Sight model on the iPhone launched in 2019.