iPad Pro may get time-of-flight 3D sensors in 2020 before iPhone, report claims

Groundbreaking AR technology coming to the iPad before the iPhone? It sounds crazy, but it could happen.

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Leif Johnson

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We’ve heard plenty of rumors that suggest the 2020 iPhone will have time-of-flight 3D sensors for its rear camera, but a new report from South Korea’s The Elec (via MacRumors) suggests we’ll soon see them in the 2020 iPad Pro, too. We may even see them sooner, as the report claims Apple plans to release the models in March of 2020.

Derkwoo Electronics of South Korea is rumored to start mass-producing some of the components for the time-of-flight sensors sometime later this year. If Apple does end up sticking with the March release date—which seems iffy considering previous iPad Pro release dates, but not implausible—that means we’d see the sensors on the iPad Pro around half a year before we see them on the iPhone.

Time-of-flight sensors measure the time it takes for LED beams to bounce off objects in front of them, which allows for much greater accuracy for augmented reality than what you’ll get with the machine-learning methods employed by the rear cameras in current iPhones. The TrueDepth sensors on the front-facing cameras on current iPhones are wickedly accurate, but they use a different technology that isn’t as effective past a few feet.

It may seem a little out of character for Apple to debut such important hardware on the iPad Pro rather than the iPhone, but the fact is that Apple tends to use its tablets over its phones when it demonstrates AR tech during keynote presentations. Apple seemingly sees the technology as better suited to the iPad, and it’s possible it believes reliable sensors could make both the iPad and augmented reality grow in popularity.

Still, it’s really hard to imagine Apple taking away some of the iPhone’s thunder. For that matter, there are conflicting reports. The usually reliable Bloomberg claims that Apple will refresh the iPad Pro lineup later this year—the current models dropped last November—while Japanese site Mac Otakara recently claimed we’d see iPad Pros with triple lenses this October.

If there’s any truth to The Elec’s report, it could mean that Apple now plans to wait to release the new iPad Pro until next year.

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