Apple has a two-year lead in the 3D sensing race

Most Android phones will have to wait until next year to duplicate the 3D sensing feature behind Apple's Face ID security, three major parts producers — Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG — told Reuters.

This is history repeating itself. When the iPhone 5S launched with a fingerprint-sensing home button in September 2013, for example, it took its biggest rival Samsung until just April of the next year to deliver its own in the Galaxy S5, with others following soon after.

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The 3D sensor shortage will handicap Samsung and others on a technology that is set to be worth billions in revenue over the next few years, enabling facial recognition, biometrics for payments, gesture sensing, and immersive shopping and gaming experiences.

“It is going to take them a lot of time, the Android-based customers, to secure capacity throughout the whole supply chain,” Bill Ong, senior director of investor relations from Viavi, seen as the only major supplier of optical filters needed for the 3D sensing modules, told Reuters. “We may have a potential introduction of a second handset maker into 3D sensing at the end of this calendar year. (But) the volumes would be very low. In 2019 you clearly will see at least two or more android-based phones.”