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Two-lens phone cameras are nothing new. Could Apple make them click?

HTC, LG and Huawei have all tried the idea before.

A hand holding a phone in a forest; the phone is in sharp focus and the background is blurred with an effect called bokeh. Courtesy: Light (http://light.co/)

When HTC debuted its HTC One M8 back in 2014, one of its key selling points was the phone’s Duo camera system, which consisted of both a traditional image sensor and a second camera for measuring depth.

That system let consumers refocus images even after they were taken, à la Lytro. The idea garnered some praise but hardly set the world on fire. A year later, HTC had dropped the idea in favor of a single higher-resolution camera.

So if Apple is indeed adding a dual-lens camera to some models of the new iPhone, why would things be different this time around?

The main reason, of course, is that Apple is Apple. It has an audience eager for new features and a giant marketing budget to convince even some skeptics that it’s a must-have feature. The other reason is that the quality of camera has become a major factor in how people choose a phone and how often they decide to upgrade their devices.

Apple, of course, hasn’t quite come out and said it will have a dual-lens camera on the new iPhone, but rumors and leaks have suggested that such a system will be used on at least some models. Bloomberg said earlier this month that the dual camera system will be used on the larger version of the new iPhone.

Apple’s event invitation suggests that the company might play up beautiful blurred backgrounds, known as bokeh, and other benefits of being able to play with focus, which support the idea of a dual-camera iPhone.

With the new iPhone expected to be largely similar in design to those of the past, the camera will need to be the innovation that spurs upgrades, just as Siri and Touch ID helped push iPhones in years where the hardware wasn’t seeing a big change.

And there are other reasons to have a second camera beyond just refocusable images. Huawei, for example, has dual-lens camera systems on several recent models, including the Honor 8, which it is bringing to the U.S.

Huawei uses one lens to capture color and the other to get a very high-quality monochrome image. The combined result, it says, are photos that are sharper than those taken with a single lens.

LG also has a dual-lens rear camera on its G5 flagship. Some have proposed having even more cameras. A startup called Light is making a camera with more than a dozen smartphone imaging modules to offer features like optical zoom. It also hopes to see its technology integrated into phones through a deal with Foxconn.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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