Apple refreshed its iPhone lineup with new design after more than three years last year. The new iPhone X is a radical redesign of iPhone with edge-to-edge display that takes modern smartphone design to next level. However, the real technical advancement comes in the form of Face ID, the facial recognition system built with advanced depth sensing technology at the heart of it.
It is the most advanced form of facial recognition system on a smartphone yet. At the heart of Face ID is TrueDepth camera which relies on an infrared camera, a dot project similar to Microsoft Kinect, a flood illuminator, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and a 7-megapixel iSight camera. These array of cameras and sensors create a mathematical model (also referred to as depth map) of the user and ensure that a random person unlocking iPhone X stands at 1 in 1,000,000.
Now, Reuters reports citing three major parts producers that Apple will remain leader in 3D face sensing until 2019. This handicaps Apple’s main rival Samsung from introducing similar feature on its smartphone. The 3D sensing technology is expected to expand to more devices later this year but most smartphone makers will be able to match Apple’s accuracy only next year.
Apple was the first to introduce fingerprint scanning solution on a smartphone with the launch of iPhone 5S in 2013 but Samsung copied it with the launch of Galaxy S5 next year. However, with 3D face sensing, the turnaround is expected to slower due to crunch in supply of proper components. Another advantage of having 3D sensing cameras is augmented reality features like Animoji.
While Huawei and Samsung have copied Animoji, the features look mostly gimmicky and poor ripoff of Apple’s work in the space. Huawei has already showcased its Face ID rival, which will debut first on the upcoming P20 series. It needs to be seen whether the Chinese smartphone maker manages to match Apple in its accuracy and implementation.
Android smartphone makers are not expected to match Apple due to one critical component – VCSEL. California-based Lumentum is the major supplier of VCSEL for Apple while Finisar is said to be offering additional supplies. Lumentum is also believed to be ramping up production as Apple is likely to bring Face ID to all iPhone models launching in September this year. That leaves Android smartphone makers scrambling for their own supplies of VCSELs.
It is predominantly possible that these major smartphone brands will give the technology a pass this year and debut their own iteration next year. However, the question for consumers would be whether they really need a 3D face scanning technology on their mobile phone and how much an improvement it will bring over normal fingerprint sensor.