In a note to clients — as noted by MacRumors — dependable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple’s 2023 iPhones (the iPhone 15?) will adopt a “periscopic telephoto lens.” The Sellers Research Group (that’s me) says that makes sense, although I was expecting such a development next year.
Periscope lenses allow for greater optical zoom by bouncing light inside the phone off a mirror before passing it through another smaller lens which can be moved closer and further away from the sensor, amplifying the light even more.
Apple has been granted for periscope lens over the years. For example, in 2015, it was granted a parent for “Mirror Tilt Actuation” (pictured above) for an assembly the includes a folded optics arrangement such that light enters the lens and mirror assembly through a first lens with an optical axis of the first lens orthogonal to the plurality of moveable lens elements.
And in 2019 the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple two patents for a periscope camera lens. The first was a “folded lens system with five refractive lenses” and the second patent was for “three refractive lenses.”
A periscope lens would also make sense in the rumored foldable iPhone. If Kuo is correct about the timetable for such a lens system, we might not see foldable iPhones for another couple of years.
Speaking of 2022 iPhones (which I was earlier), Kuo thinks the Apple smartphones coming next year will adopt a new “unibody lens design” to reduce the size of the front camera module.
“To reduce the front camera module’s size, we predict that the new iPhone will adopt a unibody lens design in 2H22 at the earliest,” he notes. “This design requires the lens and VCM [voice coil motor] to be assembled before shipping to CCM. Since Largan will start shipping iPhone VCM for new iPhones in 2H21, we believe that if Apple adopts the unibody lens design in the future, Largan, a new VCM supplier, can integrate lens design production advantages and benefit from this new trend.”