While Huawei and Samsung have been dominating telephoto photography in phones with periscope lenses capable of 3x and even 5x optical zoom, Apple might not be far behind: iPhones may get their own periscope lenses... though not until 2022.
In other words, don’t expect the iPhone 12 to pack a periscope zoom – the telephoto system that stacks lenses along a phone’s length and uses a mirror to angle it out the back side. But the next iPhone will get a photography upgrade in the form of autofocus improvements, according to a Kuo report seen by 9to5Mac.
Apple is contracting with more lens suppliers to diversify its supply chain, Kuo claims: the iPhone 12’s autofocus will use a new ball-based voice coil motor by the Korean lens supplier Semco, which will also provide periscope lenses for iPhones coming in 2022. The company will contribute 6P (or ‘six-element’) and 7P or 5P/6- lens arrays to Apple devices in 2021, according to AppleInsider.
The Chinese lens supplier Sunny Optical is also joining the supply chain to provide parts for next year’s iPhones, according to Kuo’s report, and expects them to supply 5P lenses for iPads and particular Mac lenses, too.
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Apple’s late to the periscope game, but does it matter?
Apple’s never been rushed to be the first with new technology, and the same will be true as more flagship phones adopt periscope telephoto lenses. The 2019 Huawei P30 Pro was the first mainstream phone to feature one, which managed a still-impressive 5x optical zoom.
Its successor, the 2020 Huawei P40 Pro, has one – but its even more lux sibling, the Huawei P40 Pro Plus, packs a periscope lens capable of 10x optical zoom. Not to be outdone, the 2020 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a 5x optical periscope zoom lens, and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Plus is rumored to get one, too.
By 2022, the periscope lens may have dripped down to cheaper phones, as has been the case with other smartphone innovations. But it’s not like the features Apple has taken its time to adopt, from ultra-wide lenses (which first appeared on the iPhone 11 line) to wireless charging to eSIMs, have been poorly-received: iOS users are just happy to get what Android users have been enjoying for years.
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David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.