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Apple's 2019 iPhone Could Have a Triple-Lens Camera

Ashraf Eassa, The Motley Fool

One area where Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has consistently failed to match, let alone beat, the competition has been in mobile photography. Apple spends a great deal of time during each of its iPhone product launch keynotes detailing all of the generational advances it has made in mobile photography and video capture, but when the camera samples and performance measurements come in, Apple is shown to make solid-but-not-market-leading cameras.

Considering how significant camera performance is as a selling point -- Apple executives spend a lot of time highlighting camera performance advancements during its product launch keynotes for good reason -- it's critical that Apple revamp its camera efforts so that it, once again, is a mobile camera leader rather than merely a fast follower with great marketing skills.

Apple's iPhones in a mosaic pattern.

Image source: Apple.

According to a new leak being reported by Economic Daily News (via MacRumors), Apple is preparing to launch at least one iPhone with a triple-lens rear camera subsystem next year. EDN has published accurate information about future Apple product plans in the past.

Apple's current iPhones come with either single-lens or dual-lens cameras, and the same is expected to be true for the iPhones that Apple introduces later this year.

Let's go over what this could mean for Apple's competitiveness in the marketplace during the product cycle that begins in the second half of the calendar year 2019.

Playing catch-up

While Apple was one of the first to bring dual-lens cameras to market with the iPhone 7 Plus -- something that it was handsomely rewarded for -- it doesn't seem to be leading the way with respect to triple-lens cameras.

Huawei's P20 Pro, for example, just launched with a triple-lens camera subsystem that appears to perform exceptionally well. Huawei is likely to iterate on its triple-lens camera technology for several product generations (new Mate series devices in the second half of 2018, then next-generation P series devices in the first half of 2019) before Apple gets its first iPhone with a triple-lens camera out.

Apple is certainly playing catch-up here after being caught flat-footed, but, as the saying goes, better late than never.

Apple's task, then, will be not only to match what Huawei (and potentially others) are shipping today but to innovate so aggressively that it'll be able to exceed what the competition has available in the market when it finally launches its first iPhone with a triple-lens camera.

Given Apple's relatively shoddy execution with respect to camera technology, as well as its apparent preoccupation with more gimmicky features like 3D sensing/Face ID, we'll definitely have to wait and see if Apple can reassert itself as a leader in mobile cameras once again.

If Apple can, then it will stand a better chance of gaining market share in an increasingly saturated and competitive premium smartphone market. If the iPhone maker drops the ball here, then not only do its prospects for premium smartphone share gains dim, but it could even bleed share to more aggressive competitors, particularly as Apple's brand becomes associated less with the best premium smartphone experience and more with simply being a laggard.

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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.