iPhone 13 leak reveals huge camera upgrade

iPhone 13
(Image credit: Ben Geskin)

The iPhone 13 may get a big camera upgrade for all four expected models. However, we don't know for sure if that means the front notch will shrink.

A claim from DigiTimes says we can expect more time of flight (ToF) sensors on the iPhone 13, thanks to a new chip manufacturer working with Apple. The report says that the sensors will enable "instant immersive AR experiences." Augmented reality has failed to take off with the masses, but the iPhone 13 could change that.

ToF sensors are also a great help when taking low-light pictures and capturing portraits, so it's good news that Apple's going to keep using them, and possibly add them to more phones.

DigiTimes' report itself is very business focussed. The short bulletin reveals that II-VI, an American company, is about to start making VCSEL chips to go into Apple's ToF cameras. The source DigiTimes spoke to claimed these chips will go into a 2021 iPhone to improve the next-gen device's AR capabilities, along with others made by companies with existing Apple contracts.

What this means for iPhone users is that the LiDAR sensor that debuted on the iPhone 12 Pro is for sure coming back to the iPhone 13. It's up for debate whether Apple will bring it to the basic iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini as well, or leave it as a Pro model-only feature. DigiTimes writes "some of Apple's next-generation iPhones" when discussing its source's claims, which annoyingly sounds like the latter situation is the case.

The claim of a smaller notch, contrary to other reports, isn't made by DigiTimes, but is a suggestion by GizChina, an outlet that covered the story early on. This is a reasonable assumption to make, since we've been seeing suggestions of a shrunken notch since the run-up to the iPhone 11's launch, plus new components could mean Apple can redesign the Face ID and camera hardware to make the notch take up less room. However, this idea isn't confirmed in any way by the report in question.

We've also got LTPO display technology to look forward to on the next iPhone. This recent rumor says we can expect the same technology used on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra's screen will also be used on the iPhone 13. This will not only enable it to use a 120Hz refresh rate for the first time on an iPhone, it'll also allow it to vary its refresh rate dynamically to preserve battery life.

All these upgrades will be critical for the iPhone 13 to take on the Galaxy S21 and other new phones coming out next year. But since the next iPhone isn't expected until next September, there's a long time to go before we can be sure that this and the other recent leaks are accurate.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.