How to Use LiDAR on iPhone 12 Pro

Get even more exact results in the Measure app

Apple first added LiDAR to the iPhone line in the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max camera systems. This addition makes several apps, including Measure and Photos, work better and faster. The company introduced liDAR in the 2020 iPad Pro.

What Is LiDAR?

LiDAR stands for "Light Detection and Ranging." Simply put, it describes a system that measures how long light (usually a laser) takes to reflect off of an object and return to its source. A processor then uses that information to make an accurate picture of whatever the device scanned.

Developers typically use LiDAR for augmented-reality apps because the technology lets them create accurate models of both objects and spaces.

Where Is the iPhone 12 Pro's LiDAR Scanner?

You can find the LiDAR scanner on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro, next to the three camera lenses. It's the dark circle opposite the flash. Because of its location, the sensor only works with the rear-facing camera.

The lidar sensor on an iPhone 12 Pro

How to Use LiDAR on iPhone 12 Pro

Because LiDAR is a system that apps on your iPhone use behind the scenes, you don't use it directly. Instead, you'll notice improvements in the apps that use it.

One of the primary beneficiaries of LiDAR in the iPhone 12 Pro is Apple's Measure app, which scans its environment and then lets you tap specific points to calculate distances, lengths, areas, and more. LiDAR reportedly makes Measure faster and more accurate than using just the camera because the system is capable of more delicate details.

You'll also notice that the iPhone 12 Pro needs way less time to scan its surroundings in Measure before you can start taking readings. The speed-up is thanks to LiDAR's superior ability to read and interpret its surroundings over the standard camera.

The Measure app on an iPhone 12 Pro

You'll also see some help from LiDAR in the Camera app, which uses the sensor to work better in low light. According to Apple, the camera can now autofocus six times faster, even when the lighting isn't ideal.

It also lets the phone take "Night mode portraits," which are close-range snapshots of other people using the iPhone's low-light-compensation mode. Because LiDAR is better at spotting the difference between foreground and background (based on the distances it measures), it should produce better-contrasted images at night or in a darkened room.

The iOS App Store is also full of third-party programs that make the most of Apple's new sensor, but the primary uses are making 3D scans of objects and rooms. With these, you can see how a new piece of furniture will look in your living room, get a scan for 3D modeling and printing, and more. You can find these apps by searching for "LiDAR" in the App Store.

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