In announcing its new 2020 iPad Pro range, Apple made it clear what the headline change was: a “Breakthrough LiDAR Scanner” which can measure the distance to surrounding objects up to five metres away. It works both indoors and outdoors and operates “at the photon level at nano-second speeds” to 3D map the environment and “unleash scenarios never before possible.”
Bloomberg has today published a new exclusive with good news for potential iPhone 12 owners. It claims sources within Apple’s supply chain have revealed that the iPhone 12 remains on course “for a fall launch” despite the impact to both production and the fall in customer demand due to COVID-19. It is worth noting that Apple typically announces its iPhones in early to mid September and this year Fall only starts on September 22, so it still seems highly likely that there will be some delay. That said, the crucial factor for Apple from a business perspective will be getting its new iPhones out in time for Christmas . With the world currently in flux, however, expect this outlook to keep changing.
“It is so advanced, it’s being used by NASA for the next Mars landing mission. And it’s now been engineered to fit in the thin and light iPad Pro,” states Apple. Later this year, it will also fit in the iPhone 12 range. This is the news we have known for months, but what initially seemed underwhelming now makes perfect sense.
Following lacklustre integration of the Time of Flight (ToF) technology behind LiDAR by smartphone rivals, Apple has gone a very different route. Whereas rivals used tiny mic-sized ToF sensors to try and boost photo quality (there’s virtually no difference between the ToF-equipped Galaxy S20+ and ToF-less Galaxy S20), Apple has made a large, dual-sensor LiDAR system which is designed to transform Augmented Reality. It’s a massive step up from any ToF smartphone system we’ve seen before with Apple promising it will deliver “a whole new class of AR experiences.”
Visually, the LiDAR sensor will significantly change the back of the iPhone 12 (concept render below). Yes, app adoption will be crucial for AR to take-off but in iPadOS and iOS, Apple has the most committed developers on any platform. Given the scale of this sensor, it also seems inevitable that Apple will be able to use it to improve camera performance (particularly focus and portrait mode) more successfully than we have seen elsewhere.
Combine LiDAR with the iPhone 12 range’s other highlights, including a quick A14 chipset , new super-fast refresh rate display (built using next-gen OLED panels) and potentially Apple-designed 5G antennas and it looks like a potentially mouth-watering upgrade. In fact, there’s just one problem: a growing fear that the phones may not be released this year.