Redesigned Selfie Camera, Smaller FaceID Chip on iPhone 13: Report

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A new report alleges that Apple is not only planning to shrink the size of its FaceID sensor chip but also scale down the size of the large front-facing “notch” at the top of the display thanks mostly to a redesigned front-facing camera.

Spotted by MacRumors, DigiTimes has reported that Apple plans to scale down the die size of the Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL) chips that are used in the FaceID scanner. The move is reportedly being made to help the tech giant reduce production costs as more chips can be produced on a single wafer, which in turn reduces the total number of wafers that have to be made.

DigiTimes also notes that redesigning the VCSEL chip may allow Apple to slide in additional features, but stopped short of speculating on what those features might be.

The new chip will most likely be used in the new iPhone and iPad devices releasing starting in late 2021, which most likely means the forthcoming iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro smartphones. It is also likely that the next generation of iPad and iPad Pro will feature the new chip.

In a previous report, DigiTimes stated that Apple will reduce the size of the iPhone’s now-iconic notch thanks to a redesigned front-facing camera module, and while it is possible that the size of the notch is shrinking also due in part to the new VCSEL chip, it is unclear if that is actually the case.

Well-known industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reports that the notch will shrink due mostly to a new front-facing camera module. Per MacRumors:

For the coming iPhone 13 cycle in 2H21, we foresee a more tightly integrated version of the existing structured light system, which will enable the long awaited reduction in the notch. On the rear, we do not anticipate Apple to broaden the adoption of the Lidar 3D sensor beyond the Pro models.

For the 2H22 product cycle, we anticipate an architectural shift from structured light to time-of-flight, allowing for an even smaller footprint. Based on our industry conversations, we do not think structured light beneath the screen is likely to be ready for mass deployment in 2H22. We also view the adoption of fingerprint-under-glass, that likely is added in the 2H21 iPhones, as a structural headwind for additional 3D sensing content at Apple and could be the security feature of the future.

With this news, it appears that while no major image capture changes to the smartphone line are expected until 2022, the iPhone 13 will still see plenty to differentiate it from the current iPhone 12. Earlier this week, a report alleged that the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro would see notably larger rear camera modules, but while larger they would also not protrude as far out from the rear of the device. This report bolsters a previous rumor stating that changes to the rear camera arrays were likely on Apple’s next-generation device.

In a story from January, DigiTimes also reported that the entire iPhone 13 lineup would feature sensor-shift stabilization technology, a feature currently only available in the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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