Reliable Apple analyst KGI Ming-Chi Kuo is reporting that they believe Apple is looking to leapfrog its existing Touch ID sensor, first introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5s and refined with a 2x faster sensor for iPhone 6s, to instead rely on several new biometric technologies, which will enable new iPhones and iPads to feature ‘zero bezel’ designs.
The current Touch ID is a capacitive sensor, KGI believes the company will supplant it with a new optical fingerprint sensor as well as facial recognition sensors. The optical sensor is necessary for Apple to execute its vision for a zero-bezel iPhone, currently rumoured for iPhone 8.
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KGI’s report says that the ‘under glass’ design of current fingerprint recognition components used in the iPhone do not wholly meet the requirements of a full-screen form factor iPhone. As such, Apple will want to move to an ‘under panel’ system. This means abandoning the capacitive technology Apple acquired with the purchase of AuthenTec in 2013 and moving to an optical-type sensor.
However, optical fingerprint sensors will have to be compatible with the signal interference of flexible OLED panels (expected to debut with iPhone 8) and it makes production much more difficult. KGI says that the optical sensor is still in early development stages, so it doesn’t sound like it is going to debut with the iPhone 8 this year.
To date, Apple’s Touch ID Home Button has existed in two versions: the original sensor which debuted with iPhone 5s and a 2x faster second generation sensor included since the iPhone 6s. Independent reports about the next major iPhone, coming in the fall, claim that Apple will integrate the Home Button into the screen to reduce the bezels on the front.
Some form of face recognition technology has also been rumored to be part of the iPhone 8 tentpole features. KGI says that Apple is leaning towards full-face recognition rather than biometric iris recognition. Eventually, the firm believes Apple will rely solely on face recognition for authentication and unlock, eliminating the Touch ID sensor entirely. The timeline for this is not clear and again seems to be far in the future.
For the time being, KGI says Apple will rely on a combination of fingerprint and face detection sensors, rather than fully supplanting the latter with the former. It’s worth noting the report does not tie its commentary with any particular Apple product, so even if other rumors are swirling about face recognition for iPhone 8, KGI is not necessarily endorsing that sentiment at this stage.