Apple is reportedly testing a new user authentication system that uses facial recognition to let you access your iPhone, according to Bloomberg.
The system would use the iPhone’s front-facing camera to scan a user’s face and allow them to perform tasks like logging into the phone or verifying payments. The potential scanning technology could also integrate eye detection to add another layer of security and would be powered by a 3-D sensor that could provide additional scanning accuracy.
As Bloomberg notes, Apple has invested considerable time into the face scanning feature’s performance. Technologically, the feature draws on more information than the fingerprint-reliant Touch ID, which makes it more secure and it can also log a user into their phone within a few hundred milliseconds. According to Bloomberg, the feature isn’t certain to appear on the iPhone 8, but Apple intends for it to eventually replace Touch ID.
The feature lines up with past rumors about what the iPhone 8 could potentially include. Analysts including KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo have predicted that the iPhone 8 might include a 3-D sensor for facial recognition and image quality, though reports have differed on if the technology could be used to support Apple’s recent push into augmented reality. Apple launched its ARKit toolset for app developers earlier this year and the platform is expected to be a major part of upcoming iPhone apps.
Apple’s push for alternative login methods also lines up with its larger design goals for the iPhone. Much of the speculation around the iPhone 8 has revolved around a potential fingerprint scanner that could be integrated directly into the display. For Apple, the benefits of this feature would be two-fold: Apple could remove the physical Touch ID sensor used in the iPhone and expand the display into that previously used space.
However, third-party manufacturers have had difficulties producing this technology at consumer-level performance and at scale: parts manufacturer Qualcomm demonstrated this technology at Mobile World Congress last week, but said the tech won’t hit consumer phones until next year. It’s unclear if Apple will be able to integrate display-based fingerprint detection into the iPhone 8, but if high-fidelity facial recognition makes it into the iPhone 8, Apple could still achieve its larger design goals of maximizing the display without needing space for a physical login button.
Apple also isn’t the only company who has investigated alternative login methods. Samsung has featured facial recognition on its latest smartphones, but because of performance and security limitations, the company has avoided using it to validate payments. Past facial recognition solutions have generally performed quickly and accurately, but have struggled with depth perception and can sometimes be fooled with an image of a user’s eyes.