Apple unveiled the iPhone X yesterday at its annual September event. Making good on months of speculation that a larger screen on the flagship smartphone would necessitate changes in its biometric authentication features, Tim Cook and crew introduced Face ID: an always-on facial recognition feature replacing the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that’s become ubiquitous with Apple’s handsets.
When Apple announced Touch ID in 2013, it set a trend in consumer mobility. Smartphone OEMs the world-over followed Apple’s example and integrated fingerprint sensors into their own offerings to such an extent that fingerprint-based security is now considered standard issue on even budget priced mobile devices. But with the iPhone X, Apple has broken its own mold, ditching Touch ID for contactless authentication. The question remains, how will Apple’s embrace of single-factor face authentication affect the mobile consumer biometrics landscape?
Here are some points to consider:
A general trend toward contactless authentication to accommodate bigger screens was already underway before this:
Apple competitors and biometric software developers anticipated Face ID and are prepared for a facial recognition boom:
Facial recognition can help facilitate the looming fintech trend of P2P money transfers:
Contactless biometrics are a key modality for use in the Internet of Things, which Apple is already investing in:
But is this the end of the smartphone fingerprint sensor?
While contactless modalities are certainly on the rise, the fingerprint sensor is far from dead. While Apple’s presentation of the iPhone X exuded confidence, and extra pains were taken to underline that Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, the lack of a fingerprint sensor on the device felt like a misstep. Here is why:
Rumors suggest that the lack of Touch ID on the iPhone X is due to Apple’s inability to achieve sub-display fingerprint sensor technology:
Meanwhile, sub-display fingerprint sensor technology exists:
…and it could show up on a competing phone from Samsung as yearly as January:
September 13, 2017 – by Peter B. Counter