Apple is already looking into producing camera lens modules with more than 12 megapixels, according to a new report coming out of Cupertino’s supply chain.
The company is reportedly booking production capacity at a new central Taiwan-based factory current being built by long-time lens module supplier Largan Precision. Specifically, Apple is aiming to book production time for “above 12-megapixel lens modules,” people familiar with the matter told DigiTimes.
Although there are a number of lens makers that can produce modules with 12+ megapixels, market rumors seem to indicate that Largan is the only company that can meet Apple’s minimum yield rate. The new factory in Taichung, Taiwan will begin production in October and will be able to produce 600 million lens modules a month when at full capacity. That’s estimated to be about six times Largan’s current production capacity — although Largan declined to comment on or disclose the new factory’s potential.
The lens manufacturer did indicate that production at the facility will come online incrementally, rather than all at once. Small-volume production of lenses will begin near the end of the third quarter, before output increases in the fourth, DigiTimes reported.
What This Means for iPhone
This year’s iPhone Edition (better known as the iPhone 8) is largely expected to sport a vertically aligned, dual-lens rear camera with optical image stabilization. Notably, there haven’t been any credible rumors about the flagship’s potential megapixel count. On the other hand, Apple works to improve its camera tech each year, so a higher megapixel lens is certainly possible — although it probably won’t be a significant jump.
Based on the new factory’s production timeline, it’s unlikely that the new, higher-megapixel camera modules will end up in this year’s so-called iPhone Edition (or iPhone 8). A likelier scenario is that Apple is planning ahead for future flagship iPhones slated for release next year or later. Current-generation iOS devices like the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro are all equipped with 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras.
If this report turns out to be accurate, an iPhone with a 16-megapixel or 18-megapixel rear camera could just be over the horizon. Today’s rumor also joins the ranks of several supply chain reports that hint at future possibilities for Apple’s 2018 iPhone. Other information about the device includes the addition of new L-shaped batteries, massive new OLED displays, and the inclusion of Apple’s next-generation A12 chipset.
Of course, there is an argument to be made that boosted megapixel counts won’t make that much of a difference — yet. Keep in mind that even TVs or monitors with 4K UHD resolutions only show about 8.3 megapixels. Basically, today’s display tech isn’t able to show off a full 12-megapixel image at full resolution. Of course, by the time that a 12+ megapixel iPhone comes out, that technology could certainly have caught up.