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iPhone X's TrueDepth camera said to be 2.5 years ahead of Android competition — and I hope it is

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that the iPhone X's TrueDepth camera will be years ahead of Android. Here's why I hope he's right.

Published onOctober 4, 2017

Apple‘s iPhone cameras have long since been one of their most lauded features and whether they outperform those offered by Android phones has been fiercely debated. At one time, a commonly held belief was that, while Android smartphone cameras were great, the iPhone’s just had a certain je ne sais quoi that put it a nose ahead.

Naturally, many Android users took umbrage with this claim, and in the last few years — and particular since the introduction of the Google Pixel — it’s notion that has been increasingly refuted.

The recent introduction of the iPhone X and its TrueDepth camera has brought the debate back into the fray, however, and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that the developments Apple has made with this technology could give it a significant lead over the Android competition.

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Apple’s TrueDepth camera combines several components— some of them uncommon, like its “dot projector,” and “flood illuminator” — to achieve software features like animated emojis based on a user’s facial expressions, Face ID authentication, and a portrait lighting mode for high-quality selfies.

The TrueDepth camera is expected to be a standout feature of the iPhone X, which goes on sale November 3, and has reportedly been a production bottleneck due to the complexity of its manufacturing. In a recent note to investors (discussed over at MacRumors), Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple’s TrueDepth camera would be technologically superior to those on Google’s platform for the next two and a half years.

Unpacking the claim

Firstly, it’s not clear in which way the camera would be so far ahead of the competition (MacRumors doesn’t provide any quotes from Kuo on this subject specifically). Would it be in every conceivable way? In the technology utilized? The performance? I expect the idea relates predominately to the facial recognition tech, as this is the USP that has been most talked about and appears to be the furthest step away from current Android phone capabilities. If this is the case, that the claim relates to only one aspect of the camera’s overall capabilities, it would perhaps be less interesting — how big of a deal is facial recognition anyway?

Also, I don’t know anything substantial about Ming-Chi Kuo’s affiliation with Apple. He’s reportedly been an accurate predictor of many Apple products in the past, which could suggest he is connected to the company somehow.

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All of that being said, if the new Apple tech does mean its camera is better across the board than those of Android phones until into 2019, I think that would be one of the most exciting developments to happen in smartphones ever.

Why I would be excited

How many times since the introduction of the iPhone have we seen a new product that has featured something two and half years beyond its closest competitor? This would be something that is basically unprecedented in the world of iOS and Android. We’re used to seeing successive flagships which house a bit more RAM than their predecessors, perhaps a faster fingerprint sensor, or a wider display. Each new phone can at times seem like it has improved upon the last in the most minor ways possible.

I want to believe that these billion dollar companies are capable of doing something truly beyond my expectations — I mean, why shouldn’t that be possible? It would be wonderful just to be in a situation where I could state: “If you want the best camera, buy the iPhone X because it’s irrefutably better than anything else out there and will be for years,” instead of “Well, you know, all the latest phone cameras are kind of the same.”

I want to believe that these billion dollar companies are capable of doing something truly beyond my expectations

This would be brilliant for consumers, smartphone fans would have a clear reason to be invested in one product rather than another; just because that would be an Apple product this time around and not an Android one doesn’t mean I’m any unhappy about the prospect. Because at least it would mean that *something* big is possible, and it would give Android OEMs a reason to aim higher.

All of that being said, I don’t necessarily believe that the iPhone X camera will beat the Android competition for that long — if it does even from day one. Technology improves so fast, what are considered the best smartphones in the world at one moment are usually knocked off their perch within a few months. I can’t see how Apple is supposed to have elided this with just a slightly more expensive iPhone product.

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More than that, how would you even quantify such a thing? If we accept for a moment the idea that this relates purely to physical components and that it will take Android phones until 2019 to use something similar — does that mean we should ignore results? As I laid out at the beginning, people tend to have strong opinions on smartphone photography, and what one person says is lightyears ahead may to someone else look like a step behind.

I'm just mad that neither platform has managed to produce anything with as great an implication for years.

Heck, even if the iPhone X does outshine the Android competition for the next couple of years, in some, measurable way, you still might not notice it anyway (honestly, I’d have no problem waiting 30 months to see that Animoji feature reproduced on Android).

While I’m sure many people will outright agree or disagree with Kuo’s claim and engage in furious discussions over it, in this scenario, I don’t think we should get heated over whether it means Android phones or iPhones are better. Personally, I’m just mad that neither platform has managed to produce anything with as great an implication for years.

I’ll be angrier still if this camera isn’t bloody incredible because that could mean we’ve got at least another two and a half years of waiting for something really outstanding.

That’s my take on story, what’s yours? Let me know in the comments.