iPhone 11 Could Feature Three Cameras, Better Live Photos

The news that iPhones might sport a laser camera starting in 2020 may have been the attention-grabbing detail from a report on Apple’s future iPhone plans this week. But it wasn’t the only revelation about changes to the iPhones camera — and some of those new features could be slated for this year’s Apple phones.

Another lens could appear on the next iPhone XS Max this year. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: Another lens could appear on the next iPhone XS Max this year. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

That same Bloomberg report that detailed plans for a future laser camera also said that a three-lens camera providing more picture detail and automatic image correction could be on tap for 2019’s iPhones. Specifically, the next iPhone Max will reportedly add a third rear camera lens to the current model’s double-lens system.

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What you’ll get with the triple attack is an added wide angle to go with the standard and telephoto views now offered. Apple will likely also use all three lenses in composite to take in more light — which results in clearer pictures — and more surroundings of a picture’s scene to use in a potential auto-repair feature that could correct images when subjects are accidentally cut off, people familiar with the new iPhone camera plans told Bloomberg.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that at least one new iPhone is getting a triple lens setup. In fact, that rumor dates back to spring 2018. But having Bloomberg throw its reporting behind the three-camera iPhone report makes the feature seem more likely to happen.

Though the next versions of the iPhone XS or XR aren’t currently planned to receive the three-lens camera, that could change before the phones are revealed in late 2019, Bloomberg says.

Smartphone companies like Huawei, LG and Samsung have already launched three-lens rear camera phones. Though Huawei’s P20 Pro has a standard lens, telephoto lens and monochromatic lens — the last of which helps with luminosity — the LG V40 setup already offers the wide, standard and zoom lens arrangement reportedly coming to the iPhone.

Of course, even though the general idea of slapping three various camera lenses on the back of a phone to use in various picture-improving applications sounds tired, Apple could still unveil some unreported three-lens software magic that refreshes the well-trodden smartphone photography scheme. A new image-processing chip that could help with that is coming to the iPhones, the Bloomberg report says, but it’s unclear whether it will arrive in the 2019 iPhones or 2020 iPhones.

Three rear cameras won’t be the only improvement coming to the iPhone this year. The report also mentions a Live Photos update for 2019 that will automatically capture 6-second animated clips when you’re shooting still pictures, doubling the length of the current Live Photos feature.

Other non-camera changes reportedly coming to the 2019 iPhones include an upgraded main processor for faster general performance, an improved Face ID for unlocking the phone and a possible switch to a USB Type-C charging port, the same found on Apple’s new MacBooks, latest iPad Pro and all new flagship Android smartphones.

The design of the 2019 iPhones are expected to remain about the same as this year’s, which mostly remained the same from the year before that. Some pundits have pointed to the incremental upgrade of its iPhones from 2017 to 2018 as a main reason iPhone sales fell during the 2018 holiday season.

Though Apple did add some improvements to its iPhone XS camera from the X model, they were mostly software tweaks and small internal component changes. Making a more obvious overhaul to just the camera for the 2019 iPhones — like, say, adding a third lens — could be enough for Apple to avoid another upgrade slump. Or at least it’s probably hoping.

Daniel Bean is a freelance writer with years of experience whose articles have appeared in Tom's Guide. He has previously worked for LinkedIn, Yahoo News, and the Observer, as well as TripleByte, Circa, Inverse, CBS, and ABC. Currently, he is full-time content lead for Mixpanel's blog, The Signal, writing about innovators and analytics.