Reports have cropped up online claiming that one of the marquee iPhone X features, called Animoji, doesn’t require depth sensors built into the new TrueDepth camera system.

The Animoji feature relies on both RGB and depth data provided by the TrueDepth camera in order to accurately track and apply the user’s facial muscle movement to an animated emoji.

As such, Animoji is an iPhone X exclusive feature that isn’t available on older handsets.

But popular YouTuber Marques Brownlee claimed in his video review of iPhone X Wednesday that Animoji could in fact work on older iPhones as well. Gizmodo also claimed that Animoji might not need the 3D-sensing capabilities afforded by the TrueDepth camera.

“You can even cover up a portion of the TrueDepth modules with your finger or a piece of tape without infringing on the iPhone X’s ability to generate cartoon floating heads,” Gizmodo said.

However, as Brownlee later tweeted, Animoji actually uses data from the infrared camera and depth sensors for better accuracy. “Apple told me they wouldn’t want a worse Animoji experience for other iPhones without those sensors,” he added.

So how come then that Animoji can sometimes seem like it’s working normally even when parts of the True Depth camera are covered up? And why if you cover the RGB camera, it stops.

Business Insider offers a viable explanation:

Apple’s True Depth camera doesn’t take a 3D reading continuously. Instead, it takes measurements at set intervals, or what’s called a sampling rate, although Apple didn’t comment on the specific sampling rate. When Animoji seem to remain responsive even after the IR sensor is covered, the system could still be going off of an earlier reading.

The first depth reading is taken when the user starts Animoji.

In other words, if you cover up the left side of the notch where the infrared camera is located before using Animoji, performance will be degraded.

iMore acknowledged as much, saying the infrared system on the TrueDepth camera fires periodically to update a crude depth mask while the RGB camera persistently tracks and matches facial movement and expressions.

“Snapchat might make it easier to picture: Snapchat has had popular face matching filters for a long time,” explains iMore’s Rene Ritchie. “With iPhone X and the IR system, it can track and match them much, much better. Cover TrueDepth, though, and you get the same old tracking and matching you always had.”

Pro tip: to record a purposefully flawed Animoji, cover the TrueDepth sensors.

Should Apple have made a sloppy version of Animoji for older iPhones?

Sound off in the comments!

  • AMB_07

    This sort-of reminds me of when siri was first introduced and Apple didn’t put it in the iPhone 4. I didn’t buy their excuse then (whatever it was) and I don’t now. But luckily animojis are nothing more than a silly gimmick so no loss there.

    • Jake Switzer

      The way siri works for me I’d call it the same XD

      • M_Hawke


    • David Gow

      Yes I still find Siri works no better than it did in the old day. Ask it how many days have passed since aug 25 u will not get the right answer. Play Metallica creeping death. I’m sorry I can’t do that you need to be listening to music first before I can play that. But text my wife I will be late. Works just fine

  • therealjjohnson

    Lets say you didnt need to have the X to use the feature…why cant they put whatever feature they want on whichever phone they want? I dont get the big deal. If they want you to buy a new phone…ok whats the problem? Money is the point of any business right? Especially one that is publicly traded. People , prior to this information being presented, seemed so hurt lol. A publicly traded company has a fiduciary obligation to increase profits. If they leave certain features off certain models…no big deal.

    • Juschan

      Well i dont think having it on the x only doesnt increase its sales .. and getting an iPhone 8 without that praised new feature is a pity .. if it works on other phones almost as good its just lazyness not to include it

  • ClaudieX X

    This tweets of Marques Brownlee confirming that Apple certainly uses the True Depth sensors… smells like someone was being pressured to dead to change what he said… I saw the video… Animoji worked like a charm without the True Depht sensor…
    Apple AGAIN did what they did with Siri… they presented it on iPhone 4s but didn´t work on iPhone 4 because, according to them, the lack of a double core processor (…but if you were jailbreaked, you suddenly could use Siri like the 4s…)
    …so… APPLE STOP FOOLING US… I bought EVERY iPhone since the 3GS (the forgettable 5 included…)
    The iPhone 7 Destroyed the iPhone X on raw processing power compiling 4K videos… so now I can´t use Animoji because you want u$s 1000 more to activate it???

    • Rowan09

      As someone who also had every iPhone besides the 8 of course, the iPhone 4 with Siri would not have been a good experience. As stated in the article they could include an Animoji type for the older models, but it would be inferior to the iPhone X because of the hardware with the true depth camera. If you want Animojis you have to get an iPhone X, just like if you want a surface as a full computer you must get the Pro and if you want a stylus on a Galaxy you must get a Note.

      • ClaudieX X

        And you Missed the part That animoji was tested without the TrueDepth sensor and Worked like a charm….

      • therealjjohnson

        You say all of 5 seconds of it tops on a edited video. You dont know if it “works like a charm” If we are being honest. You dont have the phone so you dont even know what to compare it to.

    • Saudor

      Dual core was the maps turn by turn I think(and this did lag even with jailbreak on the 4). Siri was a noise canceling module that iPhone 4 didn’t have. I jailbroke the 4 and added Siri. It worked fine as long as it was pretty close and it was quiet. It sucked whenever there was ambient noise.

      • ClaudieX X

        I used it and worked very well even using a server To be an intermediate between Apple server and my iPhone… that was the way to make it work thouse days…

  • Lit

    lmao sounds like MKBHD bitched out. He was probably going to lose his connect with Apple if he didn’t take back what he said.

    • therealjjohnson

      Or, he gained more information.

  • Rahimo

    Here’s another Pro Tip: Use an infrared camera with slow-mo feature to record the sampling rate of the IR sensor!!
    Yes they should have made a Low Quality version of Animoji !!

  • nonchalont

    Maybe the jailbreak community can help with creating poor animoji’s. #JailbreakBeforeChristmas #MerryChristmas #FingersCrossed

  • Hey i forgot to recommend the hacker who made the recovery possible cyberspyne@ gmailcom. Try him he is the best out there