Apple continues to expand its use of biometric authentication, bringing its flagship facial recognition system to its newest iPad and keeping Touch ID alive on the new MacBook Air.
The iPad Pro news confirms longstanding speculation. Even before Apple announced its 2018 lineup of iPhones this September, confirming that it had definitely made Face ID its default user authentication system on its smartphones, industry analysts were expecting Apple to bring the infrared face scanning system to Apple’s line of tablets, with a big hint emerging in early iOS 12 software this past August.
As with the most recent iPhone models, on the iPad Face ID has replaced the fingerprint authentication system previously housed in the home button, allowing Apple’s designers to eliminate the home button entirely and extend the iPad’s screen across more of its front face. With Face ID, users can unlock the iPad Pro while holding the device in any position, and the system can also be used for authentication into iPad apps. Besides the security applications of Face ID, it’s facial mapping technology is also used to support Animoji and Memoji Augmented Reality overlays.
Apple’s pivot to Face ID on its smartphones as a replacement of its pioneering Touch ID fingerprint authentication system had many analysts speculating that the latter authentication system was now essentially redundant, but Apple has kept it alive in its line of laptops by bringing it to the newest MacBook Air, which does not support Face ID. Apple had first brought Touch ID to its laptop line back in 2016 with its MacBook Pro, but this is the first time that the biometric authentication system has arrived on the MacBook Air, a more lightweight version of the device; and again, its arrival at a time when Apple had seemed to be moving exclusively to Face ID suggests that Touch ID may still have a future, perhaps especially if Apple can master the kind of in-display fingerprint sensor technology that some of its rivals have pioneered this year.
In any case, the proliferation of these authentication systems on two of Apple’s biggest new hardware products offers a clear indication of biometric security’s now prominent role in consumer electronics. And given Apple’s status as a tastemaker, with various rivals looking to the premium brand’s latest devices to determine which features they need in their own, the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air could give a considerable boost to biometric authentication across the tablet and laptop ecosystems more broadly.