There’s one crucial reason you’re going to want the next iPhone: The camera is getting its biggest upgrade in years

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YouTube/Dave Lee

  • Apple is expected to announce a new lineup of smartphones in September.
  • We have a good idea of what to expect from Apple’s next iPhones, which we’re hearing could be called “iPhone 11,” “iPhone 11 Pro,” and “iPhone 11 Pro Max.”
  • By all accounts, the biggest difference between last year’s phones and the iPhone 11 will be the camera system, which appears to be getting an upgrade in the form of a third, wide-angle lens.
  • Ask any smartphone owner with an ultra-wide-angle camera: It’s a must-have feature these days.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

August is almost at an end, which means new iPhones are right around the corner.

Apple usually holds an event in September to announce its new iPhones. This year, we’re expecting an “iPhone 11,” an “iPhone 11 Pro,” and an “iPhone 11 Pro Max.”

Read more: Of the 3 new iPhones coming in September, the ‘iPhone 11 Pro’ will be the best for most people – here’s why

The iPhone 11 is rumored to be the follow-up the iPhone XR; its rear-camera system is getting an upgrade from one lens to two. The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, which are said to succeed the iPhone XS and XS Max, are said to be getting a more significant camera upgrade, from two lenses to three.

So, what’s so interesting about that third lens?

Here’s what we know about the rumored cameras in the iPhone 11 lineup, and why they sound like such a significant upgrade.


Since 2016, Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhones have featured a dual-camera system on the backside.

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The iPhone 7 Plus was the first iPhone with a dual-camera system.
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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

That’s rumored to change this year, with the iPhone 11.

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An iPhone XS, left, next to machine-milled iPhone 11 dummy models
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YouTube/Unbox Therapy

The standard iPhone 11 is said to be the most affordable offering. As the successor to last year’s iPhone XR, it’s rumored to be getting an upgrade from one rear lens to two, for better zooming.

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A machine-milled dummy model of the standard iPhone 11 shows just two camera lenses on the back.
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YouTube/Dave Lee

The most significant camera upgrade, however, is said to be reserved for the higher-end models, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. (That might explain the new “Pro” moniker.)

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YouTube/Dave Lee

For the first time, Apple’s premium iPhones are expected to come with a triple-lens camera system.

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YouTube/MKBHD

Previous iPhones’ dual-camera systems featured a traditional wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens for 2X optical zoom.

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Hollis Johnson

This third lens in the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, according to reports, is said to be an ultra-wide-angle lens. This helps capture even more details in your photos.

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YouTube/Unbox Therapy

Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal


There are already a handful of Android phones out there with this feature — and if you ask any owner, they’ll tell you having an ultra-wide-angle-lens is not a gimmick.

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A photo taken with a OnePlus 7 Pro, which comes with an ultra-wide camera.
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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Back in March, my colleague Tony Villas-Boas reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy S10. He said its “ultrawide” camera lens was the one feature that helped it stand out among the dozens of other Android smartphones out there.

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Josh Edelson/Getty

Source: Business Insider


For example, this is a regular photo taken with the Galaxy S10’s camera.

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

And this is that same photo taken with the Galaxy S10’s ultrawide camera. Look at how much more detail you can get!

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

According to Bloomberg, the third camera lens could allow the iPhone 11 Pro models to “automatically repair a video or photo to fit in a subject that may have been accidentally cut off from the initial shot.”

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Daniel Goodman

Source: Bloomberg


The new camera is also rumored to help with augmented reality (AR), since having a third lens can capture even more depth information. Of course, AR won’t really be a thing until Apple launches its glasses, which are rumored to arrive as soon as next year.

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Gabor Balogh

Source: Business Insider, Bloomberg


As Tony noted in his story, LG has been touting ultrawide-angle cameras in its smartphones for years, dating back to its 2016 models, the LG G5 and V20. But this would be a first for the iPhone.

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Tech Insider

These camera updates are much-needed. The iPhone’s camera used to be a major selling point — but it hasn’t been for several years.

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Shutterstock

Smartphone cameras have become extremely important as apps like Instagram and Snapchat have risen in prominence. But Apple lost the mobile photography crown in 2016, when Google raised the bar with its Pixel camera.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Over the last three years, Apple’s rivals have dazzled customers with stunning new camera features — like Google’s Night Sight, which can take incredible images at night, or Huawei’s superior version of that same feature in the P30 Pro, which you can see in action below.

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Google

Source: Business Insider


Other smartphones have experimented with camera hardware, like the Asus Zenfone 6, the most surprising smartphone release of the year. It doesn’t have a selfie camera; instead, its rear camera flips to the front when you need it.

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YouTube/MKBHD

Source: Business Insider


Earlier this year, we saw Samsung unveil a foldable smartphone design with six — yes, six! — cameras in it. It even has an ultra-wide-angle lens, adding a little salt to Apple’s wound.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

It’s been pretty weird to see other tech companies surpass Apple in mobile photography, considering the iPhone was the standard for so long. With the iPhone 11, Apple has a chance to recover its crown.

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YouTube/Dave Lee

We’ll know for sure in September when Apple typically unveils its new iPhones.