Last year’s release of the iPhone X saw Tim Cook and his team upgrade the iPhone’s hardware and software platform with FaceID. Supply chain sources are backing up information that suggests Apple will increase the availability of FaceID and upgrade the entire 2018 portfolio of devices. That’s a decision that could have a massive impact when comparing the iPhone to the Android-powered competition.
One of the key differentiators in Apple’s implementation of facial recognition when compared to systems found on Android devices (such as Face Unlock on the OnePlus 6) is that iOS uses additional sensors alongside the forward facing camera, notably a a small infrared laser camera that creates a 3D depth map of the presented face. This allows for greater accuracy, and avoids the ‘tricked by a picture’ loophole that can be exploited.
The vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) is a key part of this system, and Digitimes is reporting that suppliers are seeing an increase in orders throughout the supply chain, and this is being reflected in their financial outlooks for the rest of the year.
Currently just one iPhone carries FaceID – the iPhone X – but the increase in numbers in the supply chain would be enough to equip three handsets. This would be the upcoming iPhone X Plus, the revamped iPhone X for 2018, and the entry-level LCD equipped iPhone that will replace the iPhone 8. The expected updates to the iPad will likely see FaceID incorporated into the hardware.
Apple has placed a lot of marketing power behind FaceID and its ease of use. The VCSEL reduces the potential of false positive matches and means that banking applications are comfortable using FaceID for biometric recognition. On Android devices with Face Unlock, a fingerprint is still needed to make digital purchases and user authentication in secure environments.
It makes sense for Apple to double-down on the use of FaceID for 2018’s portfolio and promote it as a unique feature on its iOS powered devices. Because if you look carefully at the other updates, Apple is behind Android in many other areas.