Apple may have accidentally revealed its next top iPhone, presumed to be the iPhone 8, will have face unlock instead of the current Touch ID fingerprint unlock.
Details of Apple’s new system for unlocking the iPhone appeared in firmware Apple mistakenly released for its HomePod smart speaker, which runs a variant of iOS built for a device without a screen. HomePod will launch at retail in December, following the expected iPhone 8 release around September.
Apple is believed to be releasing a new iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus that will be similar to current models, as well as a higher-end model thought to be the iPhone 8. Due to a rumored borderless screen, the iPhone 8 won’t have space on the front for the Touch ID sensor, the current fingerprint reader unlock.
Instead of positioning Touch ID around the back like Google's Pixel phone, Apple is reportedly introducing a new face biometric unlock mechanism. As Bloomberg reported in July, the face unlock feature would rely on a new 3D sensor in the phone. Earlier reports suggested Apple would employ a new infrared module for sensing the location and depth of the objects in view.
The HomePod firmware, which corresponds to iOS 11.0.2, appears to confirm Bloomberg’s report via references in the code to an infrared “FaceDetect” unlock feature in iOS’s BiometricKit.
The references cover scenarios where the user’s face is too close or too far to the sensor, or there are multiple faces. The infrared sensor may also help the unlock feature work when the device is in the dark.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith confirmed the presence of the infrared face unlock in BiometricKit.
Another developer, Guilherme Rambo, found an icon in the accidentally released files that point to an iPhone with minimal bezels.