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Face ID: Apple two years ahead on 3D sensing

Apple could be as much as two years ahead of its smartphone rivals when it comes to 3D sensing technology, claims a new report.

The iPhone X launched late last year with an advanced front-facing sensor array that could quickly produce a detailed 3D scan of a user’s face. It’s a feature that Apple’s closest rivals haven’t yet been able to match in early 2018.

According to Reuters, it could be another year until such duplication is possible. Three major parts producers (Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG) have told the news outlet of a supply bottleneck that will see Apple holding its lead in 3D sensing technology until at least 2019.

This doesn’t appear to be down to a lack of desire on the part of Apple’s competitors, either. In fact, tech research specialist Gartner has predicted that as much as 40 percent of all smartphones will contain 3D cameras by 2021.

However, with key components such as the vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) unavailable to all but Apple, the next phone to feature such a sophisticated 3D sensing feature will likely be the 2018 iPhone.

Where Apple goes, rival manufacturers tend to follow, and we’ve recently seen a number of new phones emulating the distinctive iPhone X ‘notch’ design. It’s perhaps a little ironic that the whole technological reason behind this notch will remain out of reach to the copycats for some time to come.