iPhone 12 to get better Face ID and 3D sensing camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the space between iPhone releases needs to be filled with speculation on what new features are coming to Apple's next phone. And analysts seem more than willing to offer that for the iPhone 12 expected to roll out this fall.

The latest bit of iPhone 12 feature gossip comes from Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis, Thomas O'Malley, and Baylie Harri. Their research note, obtained by MacRumors, points to improvements in the TrueDepth camera system that powers Apple's Face ID unlocking technology as well as more memory in the next iPhones.

It's not immediately clear what the Barclays analysts are basing their claims on, though these kinds of reports often draw on information from Apple's supply chain. The Barclays note specifically calls out Apple supplier Lite-On Semiconductor as benefitting from improvements to the TrueDepth camera, though no specifics are offered as to what kind of changes to expect.

One rumor surrounding the iPhone 12 is that Apple might do away with the notch that houses the cameras and sensors needed for Face ID as well as for snapping selfies. In this scenario, Apple could place those parts in a much smaller bezel atop the iPhone 12's display, which would require a reworking of the TrueDepth system. Regardless of the design Apple opts for with this fall's iPhones, it's almost a certainty that Face ID will return, as it powers everything from verifying mobile payments to unlocking the phone with a glance.

The other big feature change touted in the Barclays report — more memory for the iPhone 12 — has been cited by other analysts. Earlier this week, a report from UBS suggested the larger versions of the iPhone 12 would have 6GB of RAM, which is the same amount of memory that Barclay's is forecasting. The iPhone 11 Pro models currently have 4GB of RAM, according to teardowns of the devices. (Apple doesn't officially confirm the amount of memory it puts in its phones.)

The Barclays research note forecasts two other potential features for the iPhone 12, but they won't be a surprise if you've been closely following rumors about Apple's next phone. The report predicts the rear cameras on the iPhone 12 models will feature a 3D time-of-flight sensor. Such a feature would improve bokeh effects on portrait photos while also better support augmented reality. As far back as January 2019, reports have suggested that Apple would add a 3D sensor to the camera array on at least some of its 2020 iPhone models.

The Barclays analysts also say that Apple could potentially drop the Lightning connector from at least one iPhone model next year. That's a change already forecast by Ming-Chi Kuo, the well-connected Apple analyst whose reports drive a lot of the rumors about upcoming iPhone features. 

Kuo's expecting the 2021 iPhones to do away with Lightning on the highest-end models, potentially offering a zero-port iPhone model. This speculation comes as regulators in Europe are pushing for a common charging standard to be on mobile devices like smartphones.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.