One thing is certain: When someone attempts to predict Apple’s future plans, you should be cautious about the result. Well, unless that news comes direct from Apple. Even then, there’s the expected hype factor.
So we have those almost endless reports about whether the so-called iPhone 8 will have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor or not. Well, at least when certain commentators aren’t saying it’s all going to be a big fail because — well the Samsung Galaxy S8 is such a marvelous piece of kit.
Before we get to Apple and the alleged lapses of the unannounced iPhone 8, let’s not forget that the Samsung flagship smartphone has three types of biometrics, and all are flawed in some way. You may not quite realize that from the highly-rated Consumer Reports review, but consider what’s really happening.
So Samsung supposedly couldn’t figure out a way to embed a fingerprint sensor in the front, which has an edge-to-edge display, so it was put in the rear. It can be an awkward reach, I gather. Even worse, it was positioned in such a way that you could easily touch the camera lens instead, and thus soil it. You have to keep your fingers clean.
The front-mounted sensors, iris and facial, are easy to defeat with photographs. So they are essentially useless. To me, that presents a potential security hazard, particularly if you depend on them to keep your phone from being unlocked, and it doesn’t work as advertised. Isn’t that CR’s stock in trade, to reveal which products have serious flaws? It’s not as dangerous as a car that can tip over if you have to make a rapid maneuver to avoid a road hazard, but still…
So does the fact that Samsung couldn’t devise a front-mounted fingerprint sensor mean that Apple couldn’t either? If that’s the case, does this mean that you’ll have to fiddle with a rear-mounted Touch ID? Is that what you ought to expect?
Even if Apple had to take that route, it would still be there. But there are ill-informed stories suggesting Apple might be forced to forego Touch ID, or any biometrics. But that would be a stupid decision of the first order, since Touch ID is not just a powerful security feature for unlocking the device, but it’s also crucial for Apple Pay.
As more and more banks add Apple Pay, why would people pay prices that might be as high as $1,000 or more for an iPhone that doesn’t support the feature? Does that even make sense?
Now I suppose the rumors might be partly right, based on supply chain chatter that Apple had to experiment with different ways of outfitting the device with a fingerprint sensor. No doubt different prototypes were built, testing different ways to handle Touch ID. Some samples might have it in the rear, others might have omitted the feature, if only for testing purposes.
There are also reports of a possible 3D sensor for facial recognition. So instead of putting your finger on the iPhone, you’ll look at it instead. But you shouldn’t use Samsung’s failure to deliver a secure facial sensor as evidence that Apple is going to have a similar problem.
Having not used a gadget that recognizes my face — although I do hope my visage doesn’t damage the system — I cannot suggest whether it’s more secure. Do you just glance at the front of the device, or hold still for a second? With Apple, it would have to be pretty seamless. Stare to unlock or something.
That said, perhaps reports of facial recognition might be more about testing the feature than readying it for release this year. Maybe it’ll be offered as a second biometric method, and Touch ID, however it’s implemented, will be the primary system. Or it’ll be put off until 2018 or later.
If the iPhone 8 is real, and if it’s going to be introduced in September, you would think production is in the early stages by now, meaning the final design has been nailed down and it’s now a matter of ramping up the production lines. I suppose it’s possible Apple might demonstrate the 10th anniversary iPhone, but put off release until some time in October. It’ll still count for the December quarter, but might impact September if the expected iPhone 7s refreshes aren’t so compelling.
All this is highly speculative, however.
Last year, you were told that the iPhone 7 and its big brother (or sister) were destined to be inadequate upgrades. That didn’t stop iPhone sales from recovering. The real product was actually a pretty decent release, even if it didn’t look so different from its predecessor. So one might expect an iPhone 7s to also be a modest refresh, but that shouldn’t make it less compelling for the people who would be apt to buy them. That means customers who have had their gear for at least two years (thus the iPhone 6s or earlier or some sort of Android device).
At the end of the day, I’m not about to guess how this will all play out. But the doom and the gloom might be fed by Apple’s competitors, rather than represent someone’s honest opinion. Forgive the paranoia, but I am skeptical of reports that the next Apple gadget is destined to be a subpar upgrade. Let’s wait till something is actually released before reaching any conclusions.