In November 2017, Apple released the iPhone X with a new feature called FaceID, which detects and recognizes the smartphone’s owner and unlocks the phone, based on three VCSELs working together. With this ground-breaking implementation of VCSEL for front 3D imaging, Apple set the proverbial “cat among the pigeons” in the smartphone world, and consequently in the VCSEL industry.
Following the iPhone X’s release, several smartphone manufacturers announced that their next flagship would embed a similar feature. Front 3D imaging was implemented as a first step, and more recently smartphone manufacturers have released new products with a rear 3D sensing module, using the ToF principle. Mobile and consumer VCSEL applications is showing an impressive growth between 2018 and 2024 with a 35% CAGR during this period.
Other applications are also expected to implement VCSELs in the mid to long-term in different market segments: mobile & consumer, automotive & transportation, and industrial. In LiDAR , VCSELs are expected to compete with EEL, especially for middle and short-range LiDAR.
“Use of VCSELs for long-range detection is still challenging due to VCSEL’s limited-output optical power compared to EELs”, explains Pierrick Boulay, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole, adding “Also, cost is still prohibitive. But due to their ability to easily be built in arrays, VCSELs are a good opportunity for reducing LiDAR cost and reaching the targets set by OEMs.”
In the long-term, the VCSEL market for LiDAR could generate a revenue of around US$800 million by 2032.