iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max: LiDAR technology, what is it for?


Cameras are undeniably one of the key factor in choosing a new smartphone. The announcement of the iPhone 12 marked the arrival of a new technology which could well for some to tip the scales towards the firm with the apple: the LiDAR. Explanations.

The LiDAR (for Light Detection And Ranging ) is not a recent invention. As early as 1962, MIT was using it to measure the distance between Earth and the Moon. Since then, the technology has also proven its worth in self-driving cars and robot vacuums. Concretely, what does it do, and how does it work?

By sending infrared rays to several places at the same time, LiDAR is able to scan an environment and remove a three-dimensional map from it . Like sonar that uses sound waves or radar that uses radio waves, LiDAR measures the time it takes for light to travel to and from an object.

Apple has sensed the potential of this technology for these products for a while now, until it first introduced it in the iPad Pros last March . “Indoors and outdoors, [LiDAR] has a precision of the order of the photon and a speed of the order of the nanosecond,” says Tim Cook.

What is LiDAR technology used for?

However, your new smartphone is unlikely to be able to measure the distance to the Moon or suck up the dirt from your interior. So what interest for Apple to include it in its smartphone?

Above all, LiDAR makes it possible to increase the possibilities of augmented reality by facilitating the integration of virtual elements. Thanks to its measurement system, they will be displayed at scale, including depth of field. If this feature is for the moment especially useful for visualizing the future furniture of your living room, it also pushes the limits of applications like Snapchat, which unveiled its latest new filter only available on the latest iPhone.

It also represents a great opportunity for Apple to seduce filmmakers . Coupled with the smartphone’s photo sensors, it makes it possible to obtain better autofocus , especially at night thanks to infrared rays. The brand specifies that it is six times faster and makes portrait mode possible in low light.

Apple’s competitors are not left out on the issue. The Huawei P40 Pro has already improved its night portrait mode in EMUI 10.1 thanks to ToF (Time of Flight), a similar technology. Google has also announced a retaliation on its next Pixel.