Apple plans to introduce periscope telephoto lenses to the iPhone lineup in 2022, according to a research note by TF Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo, reported by 9to5Mac, AppleInsider, and MacRumeurs. Semco, a South Korean company reportedly supplying autofocus motors for this year’s new iPhone models, is said to be able to supply about half of the periscope optics supply.
Periscope cameras are a way to activate long focal lengths in devices like smartphones where physical depth is paramount. They use prisms and mirrors running the length of the device to reflect and focus light onto a sensor, rather than placing the sensor directly behind the lens like with traditional cameras. The technique has been largely pioneered in recent years by Chinese companies like Oppo and Huawei, which have both released phones with 5x “zoom” lenses, and Samsung has joined the fray this year with the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
In 2016, Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus was the first major phone to add a secondary 2x telephoto lens, which the company also used to provide depth information for portrait photos. However, Apple hasn’t gone beyond the 2x zoom range since, despite the idea being expanded by its competitors. Some phones have added several non-periscope telephoto lenses; the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, for example, has conventional cameras with 2x and 3.7x focal lengths.
If Apple moves on to designing periscopes, it will likely be about providing a range of 5x or more. Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus has the highest optical range of any current smartphone with its 10x periscope lens.