It’s looking increasingly like facial recognition will replace Touch ID as the biometric unlock and Apple Pay authorization method in the iPhone 8 – with Apple likely to be selling this as one of the headline features.
But any technical advantage Apple’s facial recognition system may offer over Android phones will be short-lived, claims chipmaker Qualcomm, promising that its upcoming chip will match or beat the iPhone 8’s performance …
CNET reports that Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon processor – used in many flagship Android phones – will offer infra-red 3D sensing as of next year.
Qualcomm promises that the next generation of Snapdragons will be overhauled to do more, or at least the same things but faster and more accurately. Its new chipset can use infrared light, for instance, to measure depth and render high-resolution depth maps for facial recognition, 3D reconstruction of objects and mapping. The IR light will come attached to the camera module on a phone.
Qualcomm’s claim does, of course, fall into the ‘well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ category – especially as the company is not exactly on the best of terms with Apple at present.
But the chipmaker does have a track-record to point to in the area. It first put depth-sensing capabilities into the Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip back in 2015, and improved it in the 835 used in the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11 and OnePlus 5. Earlier versions have also been used in smartphones that support Google’s Tango AR technology, which relies heavily on depth-recognition.
On the flip side, performance of the 835 chip in the Samsung S8 doesn’t exactly help make Qualcomm’s case: it was quickly demonstrated that the face-recognition system could be fooled by a photo.
There have been conflicting rumors about Touch ID on the iPhone 8. Early reports – backed by an seemingly endless stream of Apple patents for the technology – suggested that Apple was working hard to embed a fingerprint sensor into the display. However, the company reportedly faced challenges getting this approach to work reliably enough for volume production.
There were unlikely suggestions that Apple might embed a Touch ID sensor into the rear of the casing, and it’s been noted that the iPhone 8 power button appears to be much larger than usual, with some speculating that this may include a Touch ID sensor. However, the latest information seems to favor it being omitted altogether in favor of face-recognition.
The proof, as always, will be in the pudding, and it’s certain that security researchers will be doing their best to fool any new facial recognition system offered by Apple and its Android competitors.
Check out Qualcomm’s video below. It should be noted that the video doesn’t specifically show a face-recognition application for the technology.