In iPhone 12, a Touch ID and Face ID marriage of convenience


A few days ago, sources out of Taiwan's supply chain leaked a meeting of Apple honchos with a local touchscreen manufacturer where the implementation of in-display fingerprint scanner for future iPhones was allegedly been discussed.

At the time, even though the report said that talks are in advanced stage to may be implement one as soon as next year's iPhones, we were a bit skeptical as to why would Apple slap two redundant biometric identifications, given the still-cumbersome nature of in-display scanners.

The impromptu answer was that it may use a more advanced screen-scanning technology for our fingertips than what we have now, and with Qualcomm's announcement of its 3D Sonic Max solution, the fog is clearing up.

Bloomberg sources just confirmed that Apple is indeed in advanced testing stages of in-display fingerprint solution, and it's made possible by precisely the new area levels that Qualcomm has reached with the latest generation of its ultrasonic scanners.

The 3D Sonic Max allows up to 17x more screen area to be used for reliable 3D-scanning of your fingerprints than, say, the current ultrasonic edition that is on the Galaxy S10 or Note 10 phones. What will this mean in practice? Well, that the whole bottom half of the display can be used for fingerprint recognition now, so you can actually unlock your phone without even looking or trying to twist your thumb in awkward positions. We can imagine how easy it will be to use on the eventual 5.4" iPhone 12 model, too.

Touch ID as Face ID redundancy


As to why would Apple keep two redundant biometric ID methods - well, Face ID serves other purposes as well (like, ahem, Memoji), and, besides, the notch where it resides, has already become a signature design staple for Apple's iPhones. That, and the fact that there is a growing backlash against the face recognition technology mission creep, where anybody can simply hold the phone to our faces and unlock it. 

Not that they couldn't grab your thumb and press it against the display, but that would constitute an assault on some higher level than simply looking at the phone. Whatever Apple's arguments about doubling the biometric identification ways on its future iPhones are, the return of Touch ID is only a matter of time, quip Bloomberg's sources, despite Apple's own musings on the advantages of Face ID that you see in the promo video above. 

So far, suppliers have proven that they can do it with the required ease of use and quality, but haven't demonstrated the ability to produce the all-screen finger scanning solution on a mass scale required for the millions of iPhone Apple churns out every year. Thus, we'll have to wait and see if the iPhone 12 will be able to be unlocked both with Face ID and with just tapping your thumb anywhere it can reach on the display, or will this combo slip to the 2021 iPhones. 

That's the Holy Grail of in-screen identification and, as usual, Apple waited for the ultrasonic technology to mature and become good and cheap enough to go into iPhones. That, and the fact that it finally settled all of its patent litigation with Qualcomm, so the road to using its 5G modems and 3D Sonic Max technology is now clear. If anything, Qualcomm's CEO said the other day that he regrets not patching things up with Apple sooner, as now it has to have dedicated teams working with it in order to manage the first 5G iPhones on time for the fall 2020 crop.

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