Don't like the camera modules on the current iPhone models? It could have been worse4
Remember when the first renders of the iPhone 11 family were released last year? The boxy camera modules on the rear glass panels were not well received. But the renders did not do the module and cameras any justice and while some will disagree, the final version of the camera module on the phones look much better than you might have expected from the renders. And even if you still don't like the look of the three cameras on the 2019 models, there is some evidence that things could have been much worse!
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Apple 11 family's rear camera module could have looked a lot worse
Patent applications filed by the company with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, also known as the USPTO (via AppleInsider), reveal alternative designs for the camera module. Some of these designs might leave you shaking your head. And while patent number 20200221002 titled "Portable Electronic Device" doesn't mention the iPhone once in the text, the illustrations used with the applications show the rear of a phone that closely resembles one of the two iPhone 11 Pro models. That would seem to eliminate the possibility that the camera designs were created for some future iPhone module.
Some of the illustrations show the same square design that was ultimately used by Apple but with the cameras arranged differently inside the module. Other configurations show a circular module housing the rear cameras and one features a rather odd-looking shape that, if you're the owner of an iPhone 11 series phone, are glad that Apple did not use. In the patent though, the tech giant writes "that any surface shape along the transitional edge may be implemented as a design choice as long as it does not impact the operation and functionality of the camera modules, strobe module, and microphone module carried in part by the raised portion." We can't speak for every iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max user, but it would seem that Apple made the right choice.
The same square camera module is expected for the upcoming iPhone 12 series. The "Pro" units should be equipped with a Wide, an Ultra-wide, and a Telephoto camera with 3x zoom. These phones will reportedly feature a LiDAR depth sensor. First used by Apple on the refreshed (read 2020) versions of the iPad Pro tablets, the LiDAR sensor uses time-of-flight technology to provide a more accurate depth reading for AR capabilities and improved bokeh blurs on portrait photos. There is some controversy over whether the LiDAR sensor will be found on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Plus handsets. Leaked CAD designs suggest that only the camera module on the iPhone 12 Pro Max will include the depth sensor; however, other analysts note that the CAD designs were made for case manufacturers who just need to know where to place a cutout for the module and how large it needs to be. As a result, the consensus is that all four new handsets will come with the depth sensor.
The patent cited in this article was filed on September 27th, 2019, exactly one week after the 2019 iPhone models were unveiled. This year's models will include support for 5G connectivity for the first time and have been redesigned. Gone are the curved sides used since 2014's iPhone 6 line and making a stunning return are the flat sides first used on 2010's iPhone 4. Apple stuck to the flat sides for the iPhone 4s (the first model to come with Siri), iPhone 5, and iPhone 5s.