What does this black dot on the iPhone do?

Very cool stuff, that's what it does.

If you own an iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max or iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max, you might have noticed that there's black dot built into the camera array.

In case you've not noticed it, here it is on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

What is this? (The hole next to it is a microphone)

What is this? (The hole next to it is a microphone)

Well, it's built into the camera array, so that should be a clue.

Yes, it's a camera. Well, actually, it's a scanner. A LiDAR scanner. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It fires out infrared light and then uses that light to build a 3D picture of its surroundings. 

The iPhone uses the LiDAR scanner to create depth maps for camera tricks such as portrait mode, and to also help speed up autofocus.

But with the right apps it can do more. A lot more.

Take, for example, the 3D Scanner App. This app lets you do all sorts of cool things like scan objects, edit the 3D file, measure objects, and it even allows you to share the 3D file with others.

3D scanning a kettlebell using LiDAR.

3D scanning a kettlebell using LiDAR.

Another app that unlocks some of the functionality of the LiDAR scanner is Canvas: LiDAR 3D Measurements. This app can literally save you hours with a tape measure if you're into remodelling your home. It's easy to use and the results are great.

I expect as Apple gets into AR that it will tap more into the capabilities of that LiDAR camera for a lot more over the coming years.

But for now, there are plenty of apps that allow you to leverage it for a variety of really cool and innovative uses.