Ahead of the launch of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone X, there were many reports from numerous sources in both the press and financial-analyst community that Apple was trying to integrate a fingerprint scanner in the display of the device.
Those reports indicated that Apple was having significant trouble getting this technology to work and, ahead of the device's launch, Apple canned the feature, opting instead to rely solely on facial-recognition technology to replace Touch ID.
According to Apple hardware chief Dan Riccio in an interview with Mashable, these reports were all bogus.
All-in on Face ID
"We spent no time looking at [putting] fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side," Riccio told Mashable, referring to the reports that indicated that Apple had considered all three of those options.
Apparently, these reports were bogus, because Apple wasn't making changes to the iPhone X's design when those reports said the company was.
Riccio indicated in the interview that Apple locked down the key specifications of the iPhone X all the way back in November 2016. This, the executive claimed, was "very, very early," which indicates that Apple typically locks down the specifications of its iPhones later than November of the year before they're introduced.
So, Riccio says, Apple simply "didn't have time" to make the sorts of last-minute design changes that the numerous news reports claimed were being made.
The future is Face ID
If you take Riccio at his word that Apple never truly considered those alternatives to Face ID, then one thing becomes crystal clear: Apple sees Face ID as the future of biometric authentication for its devices.
Since I do take Riccio at his word, I think we'll see Apple continue to refine Face ID in the years ahead.
There are obvious improvements that Apple can make to the technology. For example, many reports peg the speed of Face ID at slightly slower than the second-generation Touch ID technology found inside the iPhone 6s, 7, and 8, but faster than the first-generation Touch ID that made its debut in the iPhone 5s and was recycled in the iPhone 6.
Making the technology faster, then, may be a priority for Apple. My guess is that Apple will be able to deliver a speed increase by improving on the capabilities of the Apple Neural Engine, which is found in Apple's A11 Bionic chip.
Apple says the Apple Neural Engine is key to handling the processing requirements of Face ID. If Apple dramatically improves the performance of the Neural Engine with next year's model, then that could lead to a dramatic reduction in Face ID unlock time in the next iPhone.
On top of that, Apple could work to try to work on conquering some of the edge cases that this year's implementation of Face ID doesn't handle that well. According to several reviews, Face ID has trouble with the following scenarios:
- Telling the difference between identical twins.
- Working consistently in bright sunlight.
Apple could try to work around the first issue by introducing another form of biometric authentication that works seamlessly in concert with Face ID. Iris scanning would probably do the trick, as identical twins still have unique irises and retinas. It's not clear to me how Apple would work around the second issue, but that's what Apple's engineers are paid to figure out.
The point, though, is this: Face ID seems awesome, but Apple would be silly to not aggressively work on the first generation of the technology, especially if it wants to maintain a lead over the competition.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.