John Gruber has succinctly summarised my own doubts about claims that Apple is still in the process of making hardware decisions about the iPhone 8 at this late stage. In particular, that no final decision has yet been made about whether or not to include Touch ID, or replace it altogether with face-recognition.
I think it’s bonkers to think that Apple is still working on hardware decisions like this in the middle of July […] Hardware doesn’t work like that. Many of the decisions related to the hardware on this year’s new iPhones were made two years ago …
Whether Apple is retaining Touch ID or replacing it with face-recognition, it doesn’t seem credible that the decision is still up in the air today.
In a recent piece, I voiced two doubts about the idea of replacing Touch ID with face-recognition. The first is that there’s no reason to drop a proven and popular technology overnight when there are solutions that would work with a near-bezel-free screen. It would seem more sense to allow both systems to operate in parallel initially.
The second is Apple Pay. If Apple wants to switch out a proven authentication method for a brand new one, it would have had to seek buy-in from banks and retailers long before now. Perhaps it has done so, but I’d be surprised if it was able to achieve this without a single leak.
One report even suggested that the iPhone 8 might launch with no Apple Pay support at all, which seems the least credible idea of all.
I did also question whether face-recognition would work at the oblique angles needed for payment terminals. One recent report also suggested that the 3D sensor in the phone will allow it to do so.
So my bet remains that Touch ID will still be present on the iPhone 8 even if it’s launched with working face-recognition. But even if I’m wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with Gruber that Apple cannot still be undecided about which route it is taking. The decision is made: we just don’t yet know what it is.