Ever since iPhone 12 rumors began swirling about, it's been widely assumed that the Pro models would add a new sensor to the rear camera array. And now, additional photographic proof has appeared to make it seem more likely than ever that a LiDAR sensor will appear on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Both the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max feature three cameras — a main shooter supported by an ultra wide angle sensor and a telephoto lens. Those three lenses are all but certain to return on the iPhone 12 Pro models, with the expectation being that Apple will add a LiDAR sensor similar to the one featured on the back of the most recent iPad Pro (opens in new tab).
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Over the weekend, a Reddit user (opens in new tab) posted a picture reportedly of an iPhone 12 Pro Max case. The back of the case features three big cutouts, which you can safely assume will house the main, ultra wide and telephoto lenses. There's a pinpoint hole as well, which looks like it would be the rear-facing microphone. That leaves two other holes, one of which would contain the phone's flash and the other a new sensor. That's where we'd expect the LiDAR sensor to go.
Now, not every photo that shows up on Reddit is the real McCoy, and this one comes from someone with no document track record of providing accurate leaks. That said, the photos line up with previous leaks showcasing what Apple might do with the iPhone 12 Pro camera array. Specifically, a leak from earlier in August included a sketch of the lens layout for both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Max. It's pretty similar to what the Reddit photo shows, with the mic hole in a different spot.
iPhone 12 Pro and LiDAR: What will it do?
The LiDAR sensor on the iPhone 12 would be able to gauge distances more quickly and accurately than what you typically see from a time-of-flight sensor. That would definitely improve portrait shots taken by the iPhone 12 Pro models, but it also would allow those phones to take advantage of augmented reality apps that rely on knowing how far away real-world objects are.
That's not just theory. iOS 14, currently in the beta phase, includes ARKit 4, new developer tools for building AR apps. Among the features in ARKIt 4 is a new Depth API that enables instant placement of virtual objects and better object occlusion, thanks to more precise measurements. The iPad Pro benefits from that new feature, but so would an iPhone equipped with a similar LiDAR sensor.
Assuming the phone case posted to Reddit is the real deal, Apple will likely have more to say about LiDAR and what it means for the iPhone 12 Pro when it launches the new phones. That could happen as soon as next month, though the phones themselves may not ship until later in the fall.