Rumors are sparse at this point in time — two years is a long time from now technologically speaking — but this is what we’ve learned so far.
An iris scanner and facial recognition
Don’t look now, but Apple may be jumping on the iris sensor bandwagon. Citing unnamed “industry sources,” DigiTimes reports that the company is prepping pupil-scanning tech for a debut on “iPhone devices” as early as 2018.
The report was otherwise light on detail — save that electronics manufacturers like Qualcomm, Truly Opto-Electronics, O-film Tech, and Beijing IrisKing are expected to ramp up production of the necessary silicon — but it’s not an outrageous report. Apple, no doubt pressured by rivals like Samsung, has been pursuing alternative forms of biometric identification for some time. It’s just a question of whether the tech will arrive in 2017 or 2018.
Well-respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported as recently as March that the 2017 iPhone would introduce “recognition technology” like face and iris scanning alongside a curved, all-glass chassis and AMOLED screen. In the past several months, the company has made acquisitions that lend credence to those rumors: it purchased facial recognition firm Emotient earlier this year, and in September acquired real-time rendering firm Faceshift.
Related: iPhone 7 rumors and news leaks | iPhone 7S and iPhone 8 rumors
Apple’s patent filings, meanwhile, suggest a long-running effort to develop a reliable method of identifying facial features. Four years ago, the company was granted one patent, “Electronic Device Operation Adjustment Based on Face Detection,” that details a front-facing camera system that can recognize a user’s face. A second, “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” describes a facial recognition solution capable of identifying the individual features of a face even in poor lighting conditions. Both, intriguingly, mention accompanying software that automatically tailors the device’s settings and screens to individual, recognized users.
Dovetailing with those developments is Apple’s long-rumored desire to eliminate the iPhone’s iconic Touch ID home button. Apple Insider reported earlier this year that the company is developing — and has several patents describing — a display that can recognize multiple fingerprints. But it won’t come to market until next year, reportedly, as Apple engineers work to overcome the many “technical challenges” with the technology.
Related: Apple’s next big iPhone update could come in 2017, not 2016
It’s unclear just how quickly Apple intends to bring its iris recognition and facial scanning tech to the mass market — DigiTimes didn’t specify a window. It certainly won’t be the first to do so — Google introduced a facial recognition system, Face Unlock, on Android in 2012, and Fujitsu’s Iris Passport was the first phone to include an iris scanner in 2015.
If the rumors prove true, one thing’s for certain: 2018’s iPhone is going to function radically differently than any other iPhone that’s come before it. We’ll keep you updated here as we learn more about the iPhone 8.
Article originally published on July 25, 2016 by Kyle Wiggers.