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Comment: The claimed triangular iPhone camera arrangement is ugly, but that’s not the real problem

We’ve this morning seen claimed moulds for this year’s iPhone line-up, and once more the triangular camera arrangement inside the square camera bump is coming under fire.

People have been criticising it ever since we first saw renders of the claimed design back in January.

That’s incredibly ugly.

No offense to the person that created that, but ewww.

No. Just no.

We’re seeing more of the same today …

Looks awful.

These look super ugly.

So hideous.

No no no.

In particular, people are struggling to understand why Apple would opt for an asymmetric triangular camera layout inside a square bump.

We should note that the molds, like the incredibly crude 3D prints we saw previously, greatly exaggerate the prominence of the lenses. If you look at the iPhone XS, for example, what you mostly see is a pill shape with a very prominent flash unit. The two lenses don’t stand out nearly so much.

So the real thing won’t look as odd as it appears: it will look much more like the render at the top of the page.

The visibility of the lenses does depend a lot on angle. The iPhone XS shot above is about as visible as they get, while they look less prominent straight-on, and even less so when light is reflecting on the housing.

So the issue isn’t as great as some are suggesting. However, that doesn’t change two things.

First, the triangular camera arrangement is odd.

The lenses inside the rounded-square are oddly arranged. They seem to follow a triangular layout, with the camera flash and microphone placed awkwardly above and below the spoke of the triangle. It’s a weird aesthetic for a module that is housed in a square.

There must be some technical reason Apple has opted for this rather than the square layout adopted by Huawei for the triple-lens layout in the Mate 20 Pro.

One reader has suggested a possible explanation:

This arrangement gives a parallax for all three cameras in both directions and give the best depth of field estimates.

Apple could always achieve two-way parallax by comparing the images from all three cameras in a square arrangement, but a triangle would give displacement both horizontally and vertically by comparing only two camera views. I’m not sure what benefit there might be to using only two cameras, but given there has to be some rational explanation, I do see that as at least a plausible one. Alternatively, a triangle does maximise the distance between any two cameras.

But design-wise, there’s no getting away from the fact that it looks strange.

Second, and in my view the far bigger issue, is that camera bumps are just a horrible solution period. I haven’t liked them on any iPhone. It’s one of several reasons I still prefer the classic iPhone design most recently seen in the iPhone SE. A flat back just looks massively better.

Compared to that, whether the cameras are in a square or triangular arrangement is almost irrelevant.

Given that I’m not alone in that view – the camera bump is one of the biggest complaints about current iPhone design – and many owners also complain about battery-life, making the iPhone a little thicker and using the extra space for more battery seems a really obvious thing to do.

So, that’s my view. Yes, a triangle inside a square is weird. But the bigger problem is that iPhones have camera bumps in the first place. What’s your view? As always, please take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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