When a rumor about a future Apple product surfaces – particularly an iPhone product – it takes on a life of its own. Such a rumor is now circulating related to major changes in the iPhone’s biometric authentication system. While it is virtually impossible to substantiate it, a leading and often correct analyst covering Apple points to a shift from fingerprint-based Touch ID to iPhone face recognition.
On first blush, it would make little sense. Touch ID works and has been embraced by iPhone users around the globe. It is fast, seamless and integrated into virtually every app worth operating.
But one fact makes the rumor ring true. Touch ID is a capacitive biometric sensor, which means it takes up real estate in the handset. With the push to full screen devices, where no side areas or non-screen areas are included (also known as “zero bezel”), things like cameras, microphones, and capacitive biometric sensors are problematic.
To recapture that real estate taken up by the capacitive sensor, an optical sensor under the screen is considered by some as a likely first step. The next step could be face recognition, which could require no dedicated hardware.
The benefit of face recognition — or iris recognition as Samsung is exploring – is that it uses embedded cameras rather than dedicated sensors. These can be multi function, supporting required photography features, and with new iterations can be under the screen rather than separated in a dedicated portion of the bezel.
So when KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that Apples next iPhone 8 might include face recognition, it garnered attention. Again, this entire world of handset rumors is uncertain, but Kuo is well respected and once his opinion surfaced it became major news in tech circles.
Most reports predict that the face recognition will first materialize as an option in devices that also include Touch ID. Future devices, however, could remove the fingerprint option and rely entirely on face recognition.
According to leading Apple tech site, MacRumors, Kuo believes Touch ID will “ultimately be replaced by a facial recognition system, however, if the technical challenges cannot be overcome, we believe a combination of fingerprint and facial recognition is another possible solution.”
Kuo’s report also included the following:
“Judging by the bio-recognition patents that Apple has applied for, we believe it is leaning toward facial recognition technology rather than iris recognition. However, we note that the technical challenges of facial recognition include: (1) algorithms; (2) hardware design; and (3) the build-out of a database for verification and authentication, which could be time consuming. As such, before Apple can fully replace the fingerprint system with facial recognition, a combination of the two steps of bio-recognition could be a valid solution for enhancing transactions security.”
These things take time so keep your thumb on ready to unlock your phone. Still, this news seems to echo a continuing trend in the biometric space toward face recognition. The once quirky and unreliable modality seems to be the technology du jour for surveillance, identity and even convenience applications.