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Report sheds new light on the real game-changer coming to the iPhone 8

iPhone 8 Rumors Augmented Reality

With each new iPhone release, Apple comes out with a signature feature for the brand new flagship, a feature that then becomes the norm for the series. It was the Retina display with the iPhone 4, Touch ID with the iPhone 5s, and 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s, to name just a few.

Unlike other models, the iPhone 8 might ship with a few signature features, including a curved OLED display, wireless charging, and exciting new augmented reality (AR) support. But the real game-changer this time around might not simply be the new design we’ve been hearing so much about.

A new report from The Wall Street Journal seems to reinforce the idea that Apple is about to dive into AR with the help of iPhone 8 this year.

AR features might be built into iOS 11 and future apps, but The Journal doesn’t reveal anything about the iPhone 8’s upcoming new software. Instead, the report notes that the iPhone 8 might pack specialized hardware that’s been crafted specifically for AR.

Component suppliers who have not been included in Apple’s supply chain in the past might see a surge in sales this year thanks to the iPhone 8. The Journal focuses on a particular type of component that’s more sophisticated than anything found in previous iPhones: 3D sensors.

3D sensors are currently used as range finders and proximity detectors in the iPhone 7, but more advanced sensors are apparently in the works for the iPhone 8.

“The sensors work by sending invisible light beams that bounce back from objects nearby,” The Journal writes. “This can be useful for facial recognition or for gesture control, like deleting an email by waving in front of the phone. The ability to map the surrounding three-dimensional environment could prove useful for augmented reality applications.”

Lumentum is a company that might provide these new sensors for the iPhone, and it’s the “biggest hint” that Apple is going after AR. “We shipped our first revenue into what we believe to be a high-volume mobile-device application,” Lumentum CEO Alan Lowe said in an earnings call last month. The company ““could imagine quarters of $100-plus million type of marketplace growing to over $1 billion.”

STMicroelectronics said in January that it ramped up its capital expenditure on account of a “newly won program” that’ll deliver “substantial revenue” in the second half of the year. STM also makes 3D sensors, and it’s a name that has been previously mentioned in connection with Apple’s iPhone.

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 closely follows the events in 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.