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Let’s put a stop to this iPhone 11 ‘black-lens’ camera nonsense

Published Apr 19th, 2019 7:06PM EDT
iPhone 11 Rumors
Image: Zach Epstein for BGR

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A trusted Apple insider earlier this week shared additional details about the upcoming iPhone 11 series of phones, focusing on the camera upgrades the iPhone maker has reportedly planned.

Among the details Ming-Chi Kuo offered was a claim that some of the iPhone 11’s cameras will adopt a new “black lens-coating” technology to make some of the lenses look “inconspicuous.” While his prediction may indeed prove to be accurate, Kuo may have included an incorrect detail in his report, one that’s already fueling crazy talk.

We’ve heard for a while now that the 2019 iPhones will have triple- and dual-lens cameras, and Kuo says the same thing in his latest research note to customers (via MacRumors):

We forecast the camera upgrade will be one of the new 2H19 iPhone’s major selling points. Critical spec upgrades are as follows. (1) Rear cameras of 6.5-inch OLED, 5.8-inch OLED, and 6.1-inch LCD will likely upgrade to triple-camera and dual-camera, respectively. A super-wide camera will be newly adopted by the triple-camera system, which is equipped with the 12MP/1um CIS provided exclusively by Sony. (2) The front camera of all three new iPhone models will likely upgrade to 12MP CIS+5P lens (vs. current 7MP CIS+4P lens).

Well-known leaker @OnLeaks provided an iPhone 11 render a while ago that showed what a triple-cam module would look like. It’s not the best-looking design option, but it’s a sacrifice people will surely live with:

Image source: OnLeaks, Twitter

Getting back to MacRumors’ account of the new Kuo report, we’ll focus on this part:

Kuo says the rear super-wide-angle lens and front camera lens on the next iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will adopt “black lens-coating technologies,” which will make the lenses look “inconspicuous,” as hinted at previously.

This prompted @OnLeaks to offer various examples of what such could look like, using his previous iPhone 11 render:

Let’s check out the image above in greater detail:

Image source: Twitter

Yes, the “special coating” renders are hideous, but this coating is such an inconsequential feature that it shouldn’t matter much. How much time does anyone spend looking at a phone’s rear camera design anyway?

That said, no matter how well-informed Kuo might be, I think he may have gotten his facts slightly wrong. It’s very possible that the selfie cam will adopt a black lens-coating, but it seems unlikely for any of the rear lenses to receive a similar treatment.

Reports from Asia back in late September said that camera parts maker Largan was developing a so-called “pure-black” coating for selfie cameras. The purpose of this coating is to make the selfie cam invisible to the naked eye. It’s a cosmetic effect meant to make all-screen phones with notches look even better, especially when the display is turned off, and especially devices with notches. The feature makes sense because the entire front panel of an all-screen phone is usually black, and you can distinguish the camera with relative ease.

There’s no visual benefit to covering the rear-cameras with a black coating. Applying the same camera coating just for one lens of a triple camera setup makes absolutely no sense for one other simple reason: Apple doesn’t make just black iPhones. So using a black coating might only work on black handsets. The same goes for trying to mask all the rear cameras.

Let’s not forget that we’re talking about rumors. Both Kuo’s research note and the reports from last September have yet to be confirmed. We have no idea if Largan will manufacture pure-black lenses this year, or whether Apple will indeed make use of them in any with the iPhone 11 models. But it’s the last design detail we should be worrying about when discussing the newest handsets, whether they’re iPhones or not.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.