TrendForce states that the global 3D sensing market for smartphones has grown from 819 million USD in 2017 to 3.08 billion USD in 2018 as iPhones make a complete switch to structured light 3D sensing solutions. Yet due to smartphone suppliers mostly focusing on fingerprint on display (FOD ), the global smartphone 3D sensing market is expected to grow by 26.3%, to a scale of 3.89 billion USD. Apple, anticipated to take up TOF technology in 2020, may boost market development and bring YoY growth up to 53.1%.
TrendForce Analyst Jason Tsai asserts that smartphone 3D sensing market scale growth still largely depends on Apple's iPhone devices. Although LG, Samsung and other brands are rolling out smartphones equipped with 3D sensing modules this year, these modules are only limited to a few flagship models and don't contribute noticeably to market scale growth, with total shipments for the whole year arriving at 33 million devices.
According to Jason Tsai's analysis, the main incentive for implementing structured light 3D sensing modules for most companies comes not from application, but merely from its potential to become a hot topic in the market. On the other hand, TOF (Time of Flight) solutions have lower technological requirements and more solution suppliers, hence smartphone suppliers' interest to switch to TOF.
However, TOF solutions are mainly suited for long-range, wide-area environmental detection, and are not necessarily better for facial recognition than structured light solutions. Brand manufacturers also lack attractive AR applications, and high resolution TOF solution modules aren't necessarily cheaper than structured light ones. These reasons further kill the desire for brand manufacturers to achieve widespread 3D sensing module implementation this year. Thus, the penetration rate for smartphone 3D sensing is expected to rise from 8.4% in 2018 to merely 12.3%.
Observing Apple, who leads the smartphone 3D sensing market, Jason Tsai points out that though Apple is the most aggressive developer of 3D sensing technology, it won't be immediately following in the footsteps of other competitors rolling out TOF solution modules this year, since development in Apple's AR applications is still underway. TrendForce predicts that Apple may have to wait until 2020 if it wants to add TOF solution modules to its iPhones and include various AR applications along with it. This will increase consumers' habitual usage of AR and prove to be beneficial for Apple's future development of AR related products.
As Apple releases new devices with TOF solutions for 3D sensing modules and AR applications along with it in 2020, it may attract other brands to follow up and further accelerate 3D sensing market development. It is predicted that the global smartphone 3D sensing market will grow up to 5.96 billion USD and bring the penetration rate up to 20%.