The iPhone 8 will change everything: how you picture an iPhone, how you use them, how you unlock them and even how much you must pay. It is a game changing device for Apple in many ways, but the new information has also highlighted its biggest cancellation…
For months leak after leak revealed the iPhone 8 would come with a fingerprint reader built into the display, but suddenly it disappeared. Just like Samsung before it, Apple couldn’t get the technology perfected in time for its 2017 flagship and it was cancelled. Consequently doubled down its Face ID facial recognition system, dropping Touch ID entirely. But now it is back.
While the iPhone 8 will miss out, a new patent uncovered by AppleInsider shows Apple is remains hard at work perfecting the technology. US Patent No. 9,747,488 titled “Active sensing element for acoustic imaging systems,” describes a method of reading a fingerprint for authentication through ultrasonic detection.
The acoustic system sends out an acoustic pulse which can pass through a second layer (“substrate”) and this is reflected back to piezoelectric transducers which determine the image of whatever object is touching the substrate. In the case of fingerprints, its ridges and valleys create unique acoustic boundaries allowing them to be told apart. Clever stuff.
The patent also breaks down Apple’s approach to regulating the technology, which it acknowledges can require high voltages. It would tightly control the drive signal, voltage bias and ground reference for each unit effectively creating a “active sensor”.
But while it appears Apple is close to mastering the technology, the iPhone 8 won’t get one – something that must be a frustrating disappointment given its potential as a differentiator. Especially if Samsung (and it’s a big if) manages to build this into its Galaxy S9 or Note 9 in 2018.
As such the obvious target for Apple will be next year’s iPhone upgrade, a Plus model of which is expected to carry a display as large as 6.46-inches. The generational slip does put Apple in a strange position whereby Touch ID disappears for a single generation, but if the iPhone 8 lives up to its extensive feature breakdown I suspect it is something most potential owners can forgive.
Not long to wait now…