Apple on Wednesday announced that it’s awarding Finisar $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. That’s an impressive investment in a critical supplier, following the $200 million that Apple awarded to Corning in May from the same fund.
We talked about Finisar a few days ago, when a research note from an analyst suggested that the American company has received Apple certification for a critical iPhone X component, vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) that make things like Face ID and Animoji possible. The analyst said that Finisar’s recent financial disclosures indicate that Apple is going to use its VCSEL tech in more iPhones next year, suggesting that all of next year’s iPhones will get all-screen designs complete with Face ID cameras.
Apple’s announcement practically confirms that the TrueDepth camera is a key component for its devices going forward. After all, why invest nearly $400 million into a company that only makes this particular type of smartphone component?
The company said that it has “rapidly adopted” depth-sensing technology in recent years, “leading to the development and production of the most advanced VCSELs used in the history of consumer electronics.” This quarter alone, Apple will apparently purchase 10 times more VCSEL wafers than were previously manufactured worldwide over a similar time period.
“VCSELs power some of the most sophisticated technology we’ve ever developed, and we’re thrilled to partner with Finisar over the next several years to push the boundaries of VCSEL technology and the applications they enable,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said. Apple’s move is also about investing in American businesses. “Technology is only as good as the people behind it, and Finisar is a company with a long history of putting its employees first and supporting the community it’s a part of. We’re extremely proud that our involvement will help transform another American community into a manufacturing powerhouse,” the exec said.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Face ID on every iPhone Apple makes going forward, and I expect it on iPads, and Macs as well. Comparatively, Android is years behind Apple when it comes to 3D-sensing facial recognition systems. But everyone in the industry is expected to follow Apple’s lead.