Face ID out, “Apple Ring” in! Google might hold the secret to the next huge iPhone innovation?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Face ID out, “Apple Ring” in! Google might hold the secret to the next huge iPhone innovation?
When Apple first introduced its advanced 3D face unlocking technology as part of the iPhone X back in 2017, there was a lot not to like about it…

Face ID was slower to unlock your iPhone than Touch ID; it didn't work when you looked at your phone off angle, and it took up a ton of space, giving the iPhone a cosmetic makeover, resulting in the iconic notch.

Still, Face ID wasn't the sole reason I sold my iPhone XS and iPhone XR back in 2019 before moving on to the Huawei P30 Pro, but it also wasn't one of the reasons that would've made me keep using one of Apple's 2018 iPhones.

Therefore, I naturally had some reservations before ordering my iPhone 13 mini earlier this year. I was used to the convenience of the iPhone 8's old but gold fingerprint sensor, and although slow, the Pixel 6 Pro's optical scanner also allowed me to unlock my phone even if it was sitting on a table.

However, as it turns out Face ID has gotten better over the years! Not only is it quicker to recognize my face, but it also does so from more (odd) angles. On top of that, the notch is now smaller (even gone on the iPhone 14 Pro series), and that makes it feel like I'm giving up less screen real estate to have this convenient security feature.

So, Face ID is perfect - end of the story. Goodbye.

Well, not really… Apple's face recognition tech still has some notable limitations that take away from the "it just works" factor that Tim Cook & Co love so much. But then… What comes after Face ID? The return of Touch ID? Or something completely different? You know what... Google might have the answer!

Face ID is the "magical Apple technology" everyone loves… when it works (which isn't 100% of the time)

As mentioned in the beginning, Face ID managed to convert me. But this doesn't make it perfect…

In fact, I think my willingness to accept Face ID or even tolerate it, is largely due to my sheer appreciation for the iPhone 13 mini - mostly thanks to how compact this phone is, which is what makes it so unique to me.

Sure, the technical improvements Apple's made to Face ID also helped but, facial recognition is still nowhere near perfect…

  • Face ID still doesn't let you unlock your phone if you're wearing headgear that covers both your eyes and the rest of your face
  • Although Face ID does work with face masks, it takes significantly longer to read your face (if it does at all)
  • Due to the limited angular range of Apple's 3D unlocking system, you still can't unlock your phone if it's sitting on a desk
  • With Face ID, it's rather tricky to unlock your phone if you're moving rapidly, like when you're jogging outside or on a treadmill
  • Even when Face ID fails to read your face, there's a lack of immediate response to let you know to correct your positioning, which results in having to type in your PIN (like a caveman!)

If Touch ID isn't coming back, then what comes after Face ID for Apple's iPhone? Google is hiding the answer!

Right! If Face ID isn't perfect, quick enough, and reliable enough, what other option do Apple and the rest of the phone-makers have to let you unlock your phone, make payments, etc.? What other options do we, the users, have? Well, perhaps the answer is part of something called "ambient commuting"...

If you're a phone enthusiast, the easiest way to make sense of Ambient Computing is to look at what Google is doing with something we all know and love - the Google Assistant!

The Google Assistant started off as Google Voice Search, went through Google Now (a less smart version of AI intelligence focused on predicting user behavior), and it is now the smartest virtual assistant, at least amongst the ones available to consumers.

Thanks to Google's vast data collection and powerful machine learning algorithms, Google Assistant is an integral part of the company's Ambient Computing present and future, practically holding the whole idea of "multiple computers that talk to each other" together.

That's why in 2016, Sundar Pichai & Co didn't just launch the first Pixel phone with Google Assistant on board but a whole family of devices that featured the virtual robot - the Pixel Buds, Google Home, the Nest Hub, etc.

The future of Face ID might be... "No ID" - could an "Apple Ring" be the answer to future phone security?

Anyway, the reason I'm going through all of this Google talk is because Google and Apple are the two companies that have the hardware, software, and, most importantly, database to create this Ambient Computing future that allows our tech to communicate behind the scenes in order make things like finding a song, a trivia fact, or unlocking your phone as seamless as possible.

That's why I believe the future of secure phone unlocking is for us to do as little as possible to unlock our phones. Or rather, do nothing.

Those of you who own an Apple Watch (I don't) and an iPhone would know how the iPhone doesn't require Face ID to let you unlock it when it's near your Apple Watch. So, in a way, Ambient Computing is already happening around us - doing exactly what it's meant to - reduce our input in order to get things done.

Unlocking your phone with the help of Apple Ring and Google Ring as part of Ambient Computing

The real challenge for Apple and Google would be finding a way to let you unlock your phone and make secure purchases even when you aren't wearing your smartwatch or when you aren't at home, surrounded by other Apple or Google devices talking to each other to give you access to your phone based on location (Android already does that).

I've thought about it, and there isn't a single object that humans wear or carry around that could be used as the centerpiece of this Ambient Computing thing. Sure, some wear their watch at all times (even to bed), but others, like me, don't. And some will have a Google Nest Hub at home or a Home Pod, but others (like me) won't.

What about an Apple Ring / Google Ring, then?

We've heard rumors of such a thing before, but they were never anything more than wishful thinking. Frankly, I do realize what I'm doing right now isn't too different, either. But how complicated could it be, really!

Google managed to shrink the 100GB Google Assistant down to a mere 0.5GB, which allowed the company to turn the virtual robot into something that lives on your Pixel phone, earbuds, or tablet, instead of having to exist in the cloud. Apple, on the other hand, has been putting PC-grade chips into its iPhones and super advanced, tiny processors into its AirPods for ages now.

So, I'm convinced we could have a ring, a necklace, or another wearable accessory that could become the centerpiece of Apple's or Google's ecosystems and talk to our phone, allowing us to unlock it without even thinking about it.

Of course, that's not even scratching the surface! The cherries on top would be that a smart ring would have plenty of other applications - perhaps to monitor your health or, who knows - let you get into your car and start it?

That is, of course, if Apple and Google don't move straight to… chip implants? That way you wouldn't be able to lose your ring. Am I right?

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