Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Covid-19 makes Face ID a nuisance - will that make Apple bring back Touch ID for iPhone 12?

Covid-19 has transformed the habits of our society and, with the widespread (and in some cases mandatory) use of face masks, it also reveals that companies that went all-in on facial recognition systems as a way to unlock smartphones, as is the case with Apple with its Face ID, made the wrong move.

Contrary to what was expected at the time - that Apple would adopt a fingerprint sensor on the screen - Apple chose to adopt only a facial recognition system (Face ID) from the iPhone X onward. Even though it was a technological leap at the time, it does not solve the issue of not working with a face mask on. The convenience of taking an iPhone out and, almost instantly being unlocked and ready to use, disappears, and instead we go back to the days where we need to manually enter a PIN or password.

The use of face masks has launched chaos among facial recognition systems, but if we focus only on the regular smartphone use on a daily basis, it reveals how reckless the bet on facial recognition as the single authentication method was/is. To make matters worst, this happens at a time when the smartphone is used more and more, as a payment method for instance, making the added inconvenience of unlocking it even more burdensome. The ritual of taking an iPhone out and having it ready to make a payment with just a glance of your face (via Face ID) is gone; and you're now back into typing a PIN code, or pulling down the mask so it can recognize you.

Nothing has been heard so far about the possibility of Apple adding a Touch ID on the screen to the iPhone 12, but this seems to be essential for this new post-Covid-19 era. If this year's iPhone 12 comes only with Face ID yet again, and taking into account that the mandatory use of face masks in public spaces should remain in place for a long while, the iPhone 12 unlocking process will continue to be anything but practical. Hopefully, in September, Apple will surprise us by announcing that the iPhone 12 has both Face ID as well as Touch ID integrated on-screen; otherwise... will be paying top dollar for a high-end device that makes us go back nearly a decade to the days of the pre-Touch ID iPhones.

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