According to one analyst, Apple is facing a significant bottleneck in the production of the bezel-less iPhone 8. As the device’s front is expected to be mostly screen (and almost no bezel), the Touch ID sensor is being re-engineered.
Cowen and Company’s Timothy Arcuri is claiming that yields of a new fingerprint sensor that would be integrated into the iPhone 8 screen are low (via AppleInsider) and that Apple may consider other less-exciting designs if the production problems cannot be solved.
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Rumors suggest Apple will debut three new iPhone devices in 2017. One device is purported to be a major radical redesign, featuring a 5.8 inch OLED display, larger battery, 3D camera, wireless charging, and bezel-less front, plus two iterative updates that retain the same chassis as the current iPhone 7 series.
The OLED iPhone has been rumored to cost in excess of $1000 — and offered in 64 GB and 256 GB configurations.
With no bezels, Apple would ideally integrate the fingerprint sensor of the 5.8-inch iPhone 8 into the display itself; this is the most magical solution.
The analyst says Apple is trying to do just that, using an under-glass fingerprint sensor based on Apple’s AuthenTec technology. However, there are currently yield issues with these components. If Apple cannot fix the production bottleneck, Arcuri says it will have to consider using an alternative iPhone 8 design.
He offers three alternatives. Apple could ditch the fingerprint sensor entirely and rely solely on face recognition for biometric authentication. Arcuri says this is not the most unlikely option as face recognition is novel, new and not developed enough to be the only biometric mechanism.
The company could also decide to use a less-futuristic design where the fingerprint sensor is simply moved to the back of the phone. This has actually been rumored before: it would basically mean the current Touch ID sensor is moved from the front of the device to just below the Apple logo on the back.
Finally, Apple could delay the launch of the phone until it can fix the production problems. There have been several reports about the iPhone 8 launching later than September, so this is not completely unsubstantiated.
Obviously, Apple is trying to bring the best it can to market, the most elegant solution being the fingerprint sensor integrated into the display. Whether the company will be able to overcome the yield problem is yet to be seen.
In general, the analyst report makes it sound like the design of the iPhone has not been finalized and is yet to enter full-scale production. This would explain why we are yet to see the cavalcade of schematics and case leaks that are usually all over the web by this time in the cycle.
Apple’s radical new iPhone 8 is expected to be unveiled in the fall, alongside two iterative iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models.