iPhone 2019 rumors: More details on the triple-camera system and a front-camera upgrade Credit: AppleSupplied Art
Business Management

iPhone 2019 rumors: More details on the triple-camera system and a front-camera upgrade

What’s in store for the new iPhone in 2019? We won’t officially know until the fall (most likely in September), but until then, you can bet that the rumor mill will be fully operational. This page will keep track of what’s being rumored as new features of the 2019 iPhones, and we’ll provide some analysis and whether or not a rumor seems feasible.

Updated 4/18/19: Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has written a report says that the 2019 iPhones will support three rear cameras in the high-end models, two in the cheaper LCD model, and the front camera will upgrade to 12 megapixels.

The latest: More info on the three-camera system and a 12 megapixel front camera

Prolific (and often accurate) Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has published a new research note for investors, in which he makes amore detailed forecast about the upcoming iPhone cameras:

We forecast the camera upgrade will be one of the new 2H19 iPhone's major selling points. Critical spec upgrades are as follows. (1) Rear cameras of 6.5-inch OLED, 5.8-inch OLED, and 6.1-inch LCD will likely upgrade to triple-camera and dual-camera, respectively. A super-wide camera will be newly adopted by the triple-camera system, which is equipped with the 12MP/1um CIS provided exclusively by Sony. (2) The front camera of all three new iPhone models will likely upgrade to 12MP CIS+5P lens (vs. current 7MP CIS+4P lens).

So, the OLED-sporting iPhones will get a third, super-wide 12 megapixel camera with sensor from Sony, and the iPhone XR equivalent will move to the two-camera system you find on the high-end iPhones today (with a telephoto lens).

The front cameras on iPhones are part of the TrueDepth module, and it looks like the main color RGB camera in that module is getting an upgrade from 7 megapixels with 4 lens elements to 12 megapixels with 5 lens elements.

Kuo further claims that the front camera and the new super-wide rear camera will be coated in a special black coating, which will help make the cameras harder to see and blend in with the rest of the phone.

Plausible? At this point, there have been so many different rumors from different sources claiming that the upcoming iPhones will have three rear cameras, it's hard to believe anything else could be true. It also makes sense for Apple to upgrade the front camera, which is used by some people far more than the rear cameras. We're far more interested in hearing about new computational photography advances that will help Apple produce higher-quality photos and videos, especially in challenging situations like extreme low light.

Two-way wireless charging and a bigger battery

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who’s forecasts on Apple products have been amazingly accurate, released a new supply chain report with some new predictions about the 2019 iPhone.

new airpods Apple

If you have the AirPods Wireless Charging Case, you may be able to charge it with the 2019 iPhone.

Kuo’s latest said that he expects the new iPhone to support two-way wireless charging—in other words, you can use the iPhone to charge other devices. For example, if you have AirPods with a wireless charging case, you can place the encased earbuds on the new iPhone, and the iPhone will charge the AirPods.

As a result of this feature, Kuo said that Apple plans to make the iPhone batteries bigger. The successor to the iPhone XS could have a battery that’s about 25 percent bigger, while the iPhone XS Max follow-up could see an increase of about 15 percent. The iPhone XR successor will see a smaller battery gain of about 5 percent.

Plausible? Android phones with two-way wireless charging have already hit the market, so the technology already exists and it doesn’t seem far-fetched for Apple to adopt it. When you consider the monster success of the AirPods and the recent release of the wireless charging case (and even the demise of AirPower), it seems fitting (and inevitable) that Apple would implement this feature.

Three-camera system

Earlier this year we saw a render that most people dismissed as a concept that would never see the light of day. The funky design showed an iPhone with a giant square bump in the top left corner that housed three cameras and an LED flash and it didn’t seem like something Apple would make. But a new rumor lends a bit more credence to that curious design choice.

Oft-accurate leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer (@onleaks), who posted the original render, has returned with a complete schematic of the rear case, which appears to leaves telltale holes for three cameras and a flash positioned in the same way as the earlier leak. In fact, Hemmerstoffer overlaid the original render on the schematic and it matches up nearly perfectly.

Back in January, a report by Bloomberg says that Apple is currently testing iPhones with a rear three-camera system that will be found on larger iPhone models.

The third camera will allow a larger field of view, a wider range of zoom, and the ability to capture more pixels. Apple is also working on a new version of Live Photos that are 6 seconds, a boost from the current 3 seconds.

While rumors about the 2019 iPhone are making the rounds, Bloomberg also reports on what we could see in the 2020 iPhone’s rear camera. Apple plans to outfit the new phone with a “more-powerful 3-D camera.” Such a camera would allow Apple to take steps towards implementing more and better augmented reality features, and it would also produce photos with more depth.

The current iPhone has a 3D camera, but it’s the selfie camera used for Face ID. The current 3D camera works at distances between 25 and 50 centimeters; the new rear camera implementation will work at a distance up to 15 feet. Also, the current camera uses dot-projection technology, and the new camera will use a laser scanner.

Bloomberg said that the new 3D camera in the 2020 iPhone camera could lead to an AR headset from Apple.

Rumors of the 2019 iPhone using three cameras startedin April 2018, though there wasn’t much detail as to how the three-camera system would work. A report by Digit featured leaked renders acquired by Steve Hemmerstoffer. The renders show the three rear cameras on the 2019 iPhone in a large square camera bump.

Digit’s report says that the three 2019 iPhones (that they are calling the “iPhone XI”) will have three rear cameras, two that are in alignment with each other, and another that’s off to the side. Digit speculates that the offset camera could be a 3D camera, based on a Bloomberg report that said that Apple was interested in Sony’s production of next-generation 3D sensors.

iphone xi three camera Digit and Steve Hemmerstoffer

Leaked render of an iPhone with a rear three-camera system.

Steve Hemmerstoffer later released new renders of 2019 iPhone prototypes with a three-camera system. The renders, posted by CompareRaja, show the cameras centered in a horizontal orientation, instead of the vertical lineup in the corner.

iphone xi 2019 compareraja CompareRaja and Steve Hemmerstoffer
New leaked renders show a horizontal rear three-camera system and a smaller front notch.

CompareRaja says that both sets of renders are “100% legit prototypes” and “nothing is set in stone yet.”

Hemmerstoffer further claims that the rear cameras will be 10 megapixels and 14 megapixels, instead of the current dual 12-megapixel setup. Presumably they will still be one wide-angle and one zoom. Details of the third sensor are unknown—it may be a camera sensor of unknown resolution and zoom or a depth sensor. The front-facing camera will also be upgraded from 7 megapixels to 10.

The most recent report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that the third sensor will be a 12 megapixel camera with super-wide lens, with a sensor made by Sony. It also claims that the front camera will be upgraded from a 7 megapixel camera with four-element lens to a 12 megapixel camera with five-element lens.

Plausible? If Apple's going to continue to compete in the smartphone camera quality arms race, it's going to need two things: An additional rear camera, and even more advanced computational photography. It feels like a triple-lens rear camera, at least on the higher-end models, is a given at this point. All that remains is to find out details about the camera placement and arrangement, specifics of sensors and optics, and advanced in Apple's photography software.

A13 processor

A report from DigiTimes states that the 2019 iPhone will have a processor “dubbed the A13.” It’ll be a 7-nanometer CPU manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

[We have our own predictions about what we can expect from Apple's A13 chip. Read about that here.]

Plausible? DigiTimes reports aren’t always reliable, but this one makes sense logically—Apple’s new top-of-the-line phones usually have new processors. The current CPU in the iPhone XS is the A12 Bionic and it was the first 7nm processor, so the report that the A13 will also be 7nm seems legit.

5W charger

The Japanese website MacOtakara reports that the power adapter will remain unchanged for the 2019 iPhone. It will have the familiar 5W adapter with a USB-A connector. MacOtakara also reports that the new phone will include a USB-A to Lightning cable, indicating that Apple will not switch the iPhone from a Lightning connector to a USB-C connector, as has been rumored previously.

Plausible? Apple likes its profit margins, so continuing to bundle the 5W adapter instead of a faster one that is more expensive to produce seems very likely. If you want a faster Apple charger, take a look at our test roundup of iPhone power adapters.

As for the rumor that Apple will not switch from Lightning to USB-C, it’s still hard to tell. Since Apple uses USB-C on the iPad Pro, it’s easy to conclude that the 2019 iPhone will follow. But the rumors of Apple making the switch in the iPhone haven’t been very solid and mostly based on analyst speculation.

iPhone XR may get dual-camera system

While Tim Cook himself has all but admitted the iPhone XR isn’t selling nearly as well as he hoped it would, it seems like Apple isn’t ready to give up on it just yet. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will be sticking with the three-model lineup in 2019, with the LCD iPhone XR once again anchoring the low end. The publication says an all-OLED family could be in store for 2020. However, there will be one notable improvement: the XR will reportedly be receiving a dual-camera setup to match the one in the iPhone XS, while the XS Max receives the new triple-camera array. 

Plausible? Definitely. The iPhone XR is one of the best phones Apple has ever made, and it would be crazy to outright kill it after just one cycle. In addition to the extra camera, Apple likely has some other refinements, but the question we have is: How will Apple differentiate it between the XS? The camera setup was by far the biggest difference between the two models, so if Apple takes away that advantage, what benefit do buyers have to spend an extra $250 (or whatever it costs next year) on the XS?

Smaller notch

The notch on the iPhone screen not only serves a functional purpose, but it also gave the iPhone a look that was instantly recognizable (at least until other companies copied it). But if the rumors are accurate, don’t expect the notch to be a longtime characteristic of the iPhone.

AMS, a sensor manufacturer, announced that it has created a new optical sensor that can “accurately measure the intensity of ambient light from behind an OLED screen.” According to Reuters, Apple uses AMS optical sensors for 3D facial recognition in the iPhone, so it’s not that far of a reach to think that Apple would want to use AMS’s new TCS3701 Color and Proximity Sensor in the next iPhone. This could result in a much smaller notch, or perhaps no notch at all.

ams color and proximity sensor AMS

AMS rendering of how its new sensor can eliminate the notch on smartphones.

Plausible? Apple and AMS have an established relationship (Reuters says that Apple accounts for 45 percent of AMS’s business), and rumors that Apple has been looking to shrink or eliminate the notch have been out for a while.

But the ambient light and proximity sensors are two of the smallest parts of the TrueDepth module that constitutes the iPhone’s notch. Far larger are the traditional front camera, the infrared front camera, the speaker, and the infrared dot emitter. In order to make the notch noticeably smaller, Apple would need to combine or eliminate some of those elements. Given their current placement, simply moving the proximity sensor and ambient light sensor underneath the OLED display, as per this rumor, wouldn’t do much at all.


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