Despite a frenzy of rumors and speculation, it looks like this year’s new iPhone will not be the one to debut in-display facial recognition or fingerprint scanning, if a new report from a Bloomberg journalist is to be believed.
In one of his recent Power On newsletters, Mark Gurman – a respected reported on the Apple beat – asserted that Apple has abandoned previous plans to bring back Touch ID for the iPhone 13, and that the company isn’t yet ready to introduce an in-display version of its industry-leading Face ID facial recognition system either.
That isn’t to say Apple has not been working on these technologies behind the scenes. In his newsletter, Gurman asserted that Apple has already tested an in-display version of its Touch ID fingerprint authentication system, and that its “long-term goal” for Face ID is to implement the biometric system in the display of a future iPhone.
Nevertheless, Apple’s failure to launch these new features in this year’s anticipated iPhone 13 could hurt Apple’s image as a perceived industry leader, given that a number of other smartphone makers have introduced in-display fingerprint scanning in their own devices, and in the wake of high-profile announcements from major mobile brands concerning under-display camera technology that could enable face-scanning while eliminating the need for an intrusive notch to house the camera. Broadly speaking, the latter tech remains in a nascent phase, with plenty of room for improvement as rivals seek to launch ever more sophisticated under-display systems.
It is not yet clear why Apple seems to be lagging with respect to its efforts in these domains, but these are Unprecedented Times, and supply chain issues may be a factor. Chip shortages have plagued production for the automotive and computing sectors this year, and in a call with analysts last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook predicted that “supply contraints” could affect sales of the iPhone and iPad going forward, at least in the company’s third quarter.
That having been said, another respected Apple leaker, Jon Prosser, has reported that Apple is working on improving its Face ID system, with an eye to making sure it works well for users wearing face masks in particular. Face ID’s difficulties with face masks have been well documented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority having specifically asked the company to improve the system to help discourage riders from taking off their masks while using their iPhones on public transit.
According to Prosser, Apple is testing out Face ID on masked users via iPhone 12 hardware; it isn’t yet clear if improved functionality will be baked into the iPhone 13 at launch, or if it will arrive in the form of a software upgrade thereafter.
Other ostensible details about the forthcoming iPhone have arrived courtesy of a number of other leaks, with analysts now anticipating bigger batteries and cameras, faster charging, and extra storage, among other improvements. Apple is widely expected to launch the new iPhone in the third week of September.