Chasing annual improvements in smartphone camera performance has previously compelled Apple to add lens bumps to the backs of iPhones and notches to their fronts. According to a new report from Japanese blog Macotakara, the next step will be a square rear camera block — a design meant to accommodate a new triple-camera array and flash.
While concept renders have floated the potential of a square block for months, the alignment was largely speculative. In January, a Wall Street Journal report suggested that Apple was working to give the high-end iPhone XS Max sequel three rear cameras, but there was a prospect that the design might utilize an elongated and perhaps repositioned pill shape, akin to Samsung’s subsequently unveiled Galaxy S10 5G.
Instead, Chinese suppliers are indicating that the rear camera design will mimic the look of Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. Positioning the cameras in this way could enable Apple to more tightly overlap the images captured by multiple lenses, or more accurately capture stereoscopic imagery, rather than having a wide array of sensors spread across the device’s back.
Macotakara also indicates that the triple camera feature could arrive on sequels to both the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, not just the larger phone. The Journal‘s report previously suggested that only the Max sequel would include the feature, potentially leaving both the iPhone XS and XR sequels with twin cameras.
Historically, Apple’s camera design choices have proven simultaneously controversial and motivational for competitors. Apple’s decision to “embrace the notch” required for the iPhone X’s front-facing depth camera led rivals to accept similar designs — until they developed better alternatives. Although others were first to the shape, Apple’s use of a square camera block to add an ultra wide-angle lens in 2019 and new time-of-flight 3D sensing camera array in 2020 could lead to the design becoming the new norm elsewhere.
Camera bumps have largely been accepted by consumers over the past several years, though these protrusions can make bare devices unsteady when laid on flat surfaces. The design compromise is considered necessary to accommodate evolving rear camera sensor and lens technologies that would otherwise be omitted in the thinnest smartphones.