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Apple Inc.’s Epic iPhone 8 Fingerprint Fail

By Ashraf Eassa - Jul 3, 2017 at 3:30PM

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Apple was apparently unable to develop a Touch ID solution that worked with the new OLED screens featured on the forthcoming premium iPhone model.

Per generally reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple (AAPL -2.98%) won't include its popular Touch ID fingerprint authentication technology in the upcoming premium iPhone, which is commonly referred to as iPhone 8.

Here's Kuo's reasoning for this prediction (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. As the new OLED iPhone won't support under-display fingerprint recognition, we now do not expect production ramp-up will be delayed again (we previously projected the ramp-up would be postponed to late October or later).

Apple's iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black.

Image source: Apple.

In other words, Apple's engineering team seems to have run into technical difficulties and, if Kuo's information is good (it generally is), couldn't overcome them. As a result, Apple's upcoming premium iPhone will seemingly lack an important feature that even the company's "lower-end" devices (e.g. iPhone 7-series and the upcoming iPhone 7s-series) have. 

This is a massive fail

Lack of Touch ID on the iPhone 8 sounds like it's going to degrade the user experience. 

The first is that Apple Pay could either be a lot less convenient to use on the iPhone 8 if, for example, it requires that one scan her or his face for identification, or if it requires that one enter in his or her device passcode when making a transaction. Or, it could simply be a lot less secure if Apple forgoes the need for some kind identity authentication and simply allows users to, perhaps, double-tap the virtual home button to authorize a payment. 

Furthermore, unlocking one's phone could become a lot more cumbersome -- performing a facial scan or entering in a passcode both sound quite annoying compared to the elegance and convenience of touching a fingerprint reader. 

To make matters even worse, Apple will (presumably) offer customers a tough choice: Do they want the sleek design and other cool features of the iPhone 8 at the expense of Touch ID, or are they willing to give up those cool features to get Touch ID by buying the lower-cost iPhone 7s-series of devices (or whatever Apple calls this year's LCD models). 

That's a really frustrating trade-off to force customers to make, and the reality that the most expensive iPhone won't be, unequivocally, Apple's "best" iPhone might not sit well with potential buyers. 

Rival trouble

The timing of this news also couldn't be worse. Wireless chip maker Qualcomm (QCOM 3.48%) recently announced that it will be offering in-display fingerprint scanning solutions for customer evaluation in the fourth quarter of 2017, which suggests that devices implementing the technology may achieve commercial availability sometime in the second half of 2018. 

Had Apple been able to bring its in-display fingerprint recognition solution to this year's iPhone model, then it could have been first to market with a seriously cool and innovative feature. 

Instead, if Apple manages to deploy an in-display fingerprint sensor in next year's iPhone model, it'll seem like a "me-too" feature at best, as I'll bet many of Qualcomm's chip customers will be keen to use the company's in-display fingerprint scanning technology to create an additional selling point for their devices.

Better luck next time, Apple. 

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