Kuo Reports No Touch ID In iPhone 8

3 July 2017

Ming-Chi Kuo, via StreetInsider:

“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.

I hate when Kuo publishes something controversial or unexpected. If this was any other source, fantastical ideas like the removal of Touch ID entirely can simply be dismissed as a far-out wild claim by a random stranger. You can’t disregard what Kuo has to say because his record is so good. Historically, if you bet against Kuo then you’d lose far more than you’d win.

This is a scenario where I want to disagree with Kuo. Losing Touch ID on the iPhone would be insane and I can’t envision the best facial recognition system in the world replacing the convenience and versatility of a fingerprint sensor. There are so many times when I use an iPhone off-axis where the front-facing depth-sensing camera simply wouldn’t be able to see me.

There is no doubt Apple was exploring under-display fingerprint scanners for the iPhone 8; Kuo confirms this and says that it was rejected for technical performance and yield reasons. However, what I cannot agree with KGI on is the fact the fallback ‘Plan B’ when the screen-integrated solution failed was simply not to include a fingerprint sensor at all. If Apple was investing so much into making the integrated reader work, surely they must see value in the phone having fingerprint authentication capabilities (in addition to facial biometrics).

I think the power button is the Touch ID fallback. In dummy iPhone 8 units seen as early as April, the power button is literally twice as long as it is on iPhone 7. It doesn’t look better aesthetically, so it must have a functional purpose: the button is a fingerprint reader. Sony phones have already demonstrated it is possible.

A few hours after the KGI report, Bloomberg writes that the ‘intent’ of the facial recognition is to replace Touch ID, corroborating Kuo. More interestingly, it says the feature is designed to work even when the phone is laying on a table as well as when gripped in the hand. If that is true, maybe Apple really can remove the Touch ID entirely and satiate all users with the new face biometrics authentication instead. Apple advanced the industry when it first deployed Touch ID back in 2013, no doubt. Nevertheless, fast and reliable facial recognition from a distance sounds like a fairytale.

Let me be clear: I have no reservations about Apple’s ability to release facial recognition that is as secure, as fast, as accurate and as reliable as its industry-leading Touch ID. My hesitation is a simple matter of ergonomics. My iPhone is on the desk. I am sitting in my office chair. With Touch ID, I can unlock my phone as I tap the button to turn the screen on. How is a front camera or 3D sensor going to be able to detect my face at this oblique angle? It just seems impossible.