Apple has applied Time of Flight (ToF) LiDAR onto the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, the two higher tiers out of the four new models of iPhone 12.
LiDAR measures distance by shooting a beam of light and measuring the time it takes to bounce back. The technology allows for longer ran compared to Face ID which uses a depth sensor.
LiDAR will allow for augmented reality (AR) features on a 5G environment. Apple applied ToF first to the iPad Pro tablet launched earlier this year.
Apple said iPhone 12 Pro’s LiDAR supports immersive AR experience. The sensor also has six times the auto focus speed in low light settings. The sensor will allow scanning of object and space and will bring faster photo and video capture speeds.
Cupertino’s application of LiDAR will be an interest to South Korean component makers as it might spur rival Samsung to add ToF on its Galaxy smartphone line again.
Samsung has applied ToF on the Galaxy S10, Note 20 and S20 series. But it didn’t put it in on the Galaxy Note 20 and won’t be adding the feature for the Galaxy S21 series. This is due to lack of technology and contents.
The South Korea’s indirect ToF falls behind iPhone 12 Pro’s direct ToF in range. Apple has an exclusive contract with Sony for the direct ToF, forcing Samsung to buy indirect ToF from the Japanese tech giant.
If Apple introduces sufficient contents with its ToF, Samsung will likely reapply the modules for its smartphones as well.
Samsung was also working on an indirect ToF with increased range, a person familiar with the matter said. South Korean suppliers Namuga and Partron has supplied ToF modules to Samsung, while Kolen and Optrontec supplied the ToF lens and band-pass filters, respectively. Optrontec was embroiled in a patent lawsuits in South Korea and the US with Apple supplier VIAVI over band-pass filter technology.