Parts crunch: Apple still two years ahead of competition with TrueDepth, Face ID

Sources from three major smartphone components manufacturers are saying that Apple still has a two-year advantage on its competition when it comes to one part: the TrueDepth camera.

Viavi, Finisar and Ams all say that most Android phone producers will struggle to obtain parts for a 3D-sensing camera system — vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers are said to be the toughest to source.

It’s said that Apple, with its big pockets, has been able to beat out the rest of the industry in research, development and production of such camera systems that make features possible such as enhanced facial recognition (Face ID), Animoji and other augmented reality media.

And with so few suppliers working in this particular hardware chain at the moment — Viavi is said to be the only company providing optical filters for 3D cameras — one company executive claims that Android manufacturers will have a two-year handicap on this type of technology.

“We may have a potential introduction of a second handset maker into 3D sensing at the end of this calendar year,” said Bill Ong, senior director of investor relations. “The volumes would be very low. In 2019, you clearly will see at least two or more Android-based phones.”

Ong did not mention the OEM by name.

It should be noted that this expected gap is on par with a previous contemporaneous estimate of two-and-a-half years. Samsung is reportedly working internally on its own 3D-sensing camera in time for next year’s spring flagship release.

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Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.