The new iPhone could come with lasers, according to a new report.
The technology would be built into the back of the phone – alongside its camera – and help it sense depth. That will in turn be used for all sorts of augmented reality and photography features, according to the same report.
The feature is rumoured to be arriving in the more expensive version of the iPhone 8, which could be called the iPhone Pro, according to Fast Company. But it might not have been ready and it might actually wait until next year.
Apple has been working hard on augmented reality features, which allow virtual things to be put into the real world. It showed off new software for doing so at last month's Worldwide Developers Conference, for instance, and has encouraged companies to make their own apps using it.
But true augmented reality will need new sensors that can sense depth and more accurately scan the real world. And that is rumoured to be coming in September's new iPhones.
The lasers would be a VCSEL system. That sends out a laser that bounces off the object and then back into a sensor on the phone, and by timing how long that takes the phone can work out how far the light has travelled.
As well as allowing for full scanning of real environments for augmented reality, the laser would allow the phone's autofocus to work far more quickly and accurately, allowing for better photos.
Fast Company reported that Apple was still working to integrate the lasers into the iPhone 8, and that it could have to wait until the 2018 model if it is not ready in time. But Apple is already beginning production on the iPhone hardware, meaning that the decision has probably already been made.
In addition to the lasers, Apple will include depth-sensing features in its front cameras, according to previous reports. Those will be used to recognise people's faces, unlocking the handset as well as allowing for 3D photo effects.
As with many of the biggest features – including a major new redesign, and updated screen technology – the depth-sensing lasers are thought to be reserved only for the more expensive, premium version of the phone. September is rumoured to be bringing three different iPhones: the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, which will be updated versions of the most recent handset, and the far more innovative and more expensive model.
Rumours have suggested that the premium model called be called the iPhone Pro or iPhone X, and cost as much as $1,200.