About a week ago, Bloomberg reported that Apple has been overcoming iPhone X production bottlenecks by quietly asking its suppliers to reduce face recognition accuracy on Face ID hardware. If that’s true, which it might considering the leakiness of Apple’s supply chain, that means your iPhone X that’s shipping out in a couple of days isn’t as secure as Apple said it would be when the phone was launched back in September.
The key points of Apple’s struggle to keep production at the levels it needs have all been around the 3D sensing technology housed at the top of iPhone X – hence the odd-looking interruption at the top of the display. The sensor for Face ID consists of an infrared projector, a flood illuminator and an infrared camera to capture the radiation and the image of the user. The dot projector is the challenge here because it has multiple components, and that’s where the supply bottleneck currently is.
To counter that problem, Apple has allegedly told the supplier that accuracy of face recognition can be reduced.
For the iPhone X user, that’s not great news at all. First of all, with Fingerprint ID now gone, the only way to keep your device secure is Face ID. If the accuracy of that is reduced, it’s all the way back to a passphrase or PIN to keep your device and data safe.
For months before the launch of iPhone X, it was reported that 3D sensing could be a problem, and now it looks that the problem is full-blown.
On the one hand, there’s no dearth of pre-orders for iPhone X. On the other, if the device isn’t as secure as advertised, it could affect future sales when the device launches to the broader market.
The question is: if this piece of information is true, then is Apple simply buying more time so it can get production back on track? According to the same sources, only about one in five dot projectors that suppliers made were usable at one point, and that only improved after Apple relaxed some of the tight specs for Face ID.
On the plus side, the sources say that iPhone X with Face ID after the downgrade will still be more accurate than TouchID. But the issue is not one of technology: it’s one of Apple willing to compromise on quality to boost production.