Rumours that at least some of Apple’s 2019 iPhones may get a triple-lens camera have been circulating since at least last spring, but they gained new life earlier this year when an allegedly leaked render appeared of what the camera system might look like.
Although we’ve been a bit skeptical that the camera system design shown in these early renders is something Apple would do — it seems far too clunky and awkward for Apple’s usually clean aesthetic — new renders by Mac Otakara, leaked from a Chinese supplier, would seem to confirm that Apple will be going with a square design, which it notes is similar to that found on Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro.
To be fair, Mac Otakara’s renders show a considerably smaller and more muted design for the square camera bump than what we saw from OnLeaks in January, so it may not be as bad as we originally feared, but in either case it should be noted that these are merely renders based on design specifications, and not actual photos of what the final device will look like.
However, the need to ensure that the three camera lenses are all in close proximity to each other would require they be clustered like this, rather than in-line, so the square design makes the most sense from a photography and physics perspective, although other renders have suggested the possibility of a triangular design, with the flash in the center.
Mac Otakara also confirms that there will still be three new iPhone models this year, which will be successors to, and use the same body sizes as, the current iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR models. While it seems very likely that the next-generation iPhone XR will not be gaining the triple-lens camera — although it may still get an upgrade to the current dual-lens system — it’s not yet entirely clear whether Apple may return to the iPhone Plus era of including the better camera system only on the larger model.
Earlier rumours suggested that this would be the case, but Mac Otakara suggests that the references to the high-end model in prior reports was referring to storage capacity, and not size, meaning that the 5.8-inch 2019 iPhone could potentially include the triple-lens camera as well.
In an interesting wrinkle, rumours also suggest that Apple might include the triple-lens camera only on the higher storage capacity models — the 64GB iPhone may stick with the dual-camera system, while customers would need to opt for the 256GB or 512GB models to get the better camera. While there is some very minor precedent for this with the Jet Black iPhone 7, that was merely an aesthetic difference; including significantly different hardware features based on storage capacity would be a first for Apple’s iPhone lineup, so we think that aspect of the rumour should be taken with a healthy dose of salt.
Several of Apple’s Android-based competitors have already released smartphones with triple-lens cameras, and while Apple is rarely first to market with new technologies like this, most analysts agree that it’s time for Apple to add the third lens. A triple-lens system would provide a host of new photography benefits, including things like better optical zoom (although analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that the third lens will be ultra-wide rather than telephoto), better low-light performance, more advanced AI photography features like portrait and lighting modes, and a big boost to Apple’s augmented reality features.