Days before the big reveal, the fate of Touch ID on the new iPhone is still a closely held secret.
Would Apple really kill the system by which millions of iPhone owners unlock their devices and buy stuff with Apple Pay? Where did the idea—which seems crazy to me—come from?
Here, as best as I can recreate it, is the sequence of events that got us to this place.
July 3 (6 am): Street Insider quotes KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo: “We predict the OLED model won’t support fingerprint recognition, reasons being: (1) the full-screen design doesn’t work with existing capacitive fingerprint recognition, and (2) the scan-through ability of the under-display fingerprint solution still has technical challenges, including: (i) requirement for a more complex panel pixel design; (ii) disappointing scan-through of OLED panel despite it being thinner than LCD panel; and (iii) weakened scan-through performance due to overlayered panel module. As the new OLED iPhone won’t support under-display fingerprint recognition, we now do not expect production ramp-up will be delayed again (we previously projected the ramp-up would be postponed to late October or later).”
July 3 (3 pm): Mark Gurman, Bloomberg: “Apple Inc. is working on a feature that will let you unlock your iPhone using your face instead of a fingerprint… The feature is still being tested and may not appear with the new device. However, the intent is for it to replace the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, according to the person… Apple has faced challenges integrating the Touch ID fingerprint scanner into this new screen, people familiar with Apple’s work have said.”
July 11: Rene Ritchie, iMore: “Way back in January 2015, I wrote about Apple deleting the physical home button so the company could minimize the bezels in iPhone 8:.. My beautiful dream is still ambient security, where myriad biometric sensors, including face, eye, fingerprint, voice, gait, and more constantly, passively determine authentication and, if it ever drops below a threshold, prompts for active re-authentication. We’re likely years away from that, but Face ID, in place of or in conjunction with Touch ID, brings us one sensor closer.
July 3: Zach Epstein, BGR: I have now received information from three different well-placed sources over the past few weeks, and they have all told me the same thing: The iPhone 8’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor is in the power button.
Aug. 20: Shin Ji-hye, Korea Herald: “Apple and Samsung tried to have an in-display fingerprint reader for their new phones, iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8, respectively but both of them appear to have failed to put the scanner under the display screen due to technical difficulties.”
Aug. 21: Chris Smith, BGR: “Apple plans to kill Touch ID with facial recognition, report claims.”
My take: Still seems crazy to me, no matter how fast and foolproof the promised face recognition system might be. But with Apple—as with Trump—you never know.