Apple thought to have two-year lead in 3D smartphone sensors

Most android devices won’t have 3D sensors comparable to this in the iPhone X until 2019, giving Apple a two-year lead in the burgeoning field expected to be worth billions over the next few years, Reuters reports. Three major parts producers said Samsung and others are too far behind Apple to get the tech into customers’ hands this year, leaving Apple out ahead on facial recognition, gesture sensing and immersive experiences for gaming and online shopping. Parts manufacturers Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG said Android producers are struggling to get access to the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers that are central to Apple’s Face ID components.
Viavi is the only major supplier of the optical filters used in 3D sension modules and is in talks will all the major smartphone makers to supply them, but getting into the pipeline won’t be easy even for tech giants since there are so few producers. “It is going to take them a lot of time, the Android-based customers, to secure capacity throughout the whole supply chain,” said Bill Ong, senior director of investor relations from Viavi. “We may have a potential introduction of a second handset maker into 3D sensing at the end of this calendar year. (But) the volumes would be very low.” Some smartphones have hit the market (albeit in limited numbers) with 3D sensors, but notably the Asus ZenFone AR doesn’t use the sensors for facial recognition. Apple locked in a $390 million deal for Finisar to produce its VCSELs early, after other producers proved unreliable, and Craig Thompson, vice president of new markets at Finisar, said interest has only grown since then. “Each customer has their own adoption timeline and rollout plan, which we can’t discuss, but we expect the market opportunity for VCSEL technology to increase substantially in 2019,” Thompson said.

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