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Apple is gearing up to make a sizable investment in one of its go-to camera suppliers, as the company moves to secure a sufficient quantity of 3D sensing camera modules for its 2018 iPhone and iPad models, according to a report out Tuesday from The Investor.
Citing industry sources, Apple is readying as much as $820.9 million for an “upfront payment” [investment] in LG Innotek, which the camera maker would reportedly use to build out additional facilities to manufacture the 3D sensing modules for Apple.
“The affiliate of LG Group said in a regulatory filing on Jan. 8 that it would invest 873.7 billion won (US$820.90 million) to build additional facilities for its mobile camera module and next-generation module business,” The Investor said, while EDN went on to speculate that Apple’s decision to invest exclusively in LG Innotek is more than likely the result of a meeting between the company’s CEOs, Tim Cook and Park Jong-seok, back in November of last year.
Today’s report, if accurate, stands to represent Apple’s third, multi-million dollar investment as part of its previously announced Advanced Manufacturing Fund — a $1 billion effort to help jumpstart next-generation manufacturing projects here in the U.S.
Back in December, 2017, it was reported the company would invest as much as $390 million in Finisar Corp. while earlier in 2017, Kentucky-based Gorilla Glass makers, Corning, were christened the first recipient of $200 million from Apple’s fund.
Worth pointing out is that Finisar and LG Innotek manufacture different components for Apple’s TrueDepth cameras — with the former responsible for building Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSEL) chips, and the latter responsible for producing other, crucial Face ID components, including the camera’s flood illuminator and dot projector.
So, Apple’s planned investment in LG Innotek actually makes perfect sense — especially if the company is indeed planning to incorporate Face ID on all of its iPhone and iPad models this year. Which should be the case, according to recent mumblings from the historically accurate KGI Securities analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently said Apple could release as many as three new iPhones in 2018, including a refreshed 5.8-inch iPhone X, a larger 6.5-inch ‘iPhone X Plus’, and a mid-range 6.1-inch LCD-equipped legacy model.
Apple is also believed to have at least one iPad Pro model boasting Face ID in the pipeline for 2018, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
Today’s report is unfortunately not clear about when LG Innotek might get started developing its proposed facilities; however with iPhone manufacturing season set to kick off in mid-July it’s safe to say they still have plenty of time to wade through the details.