One thing almost certain about the iPhone 8 is that it would ditch the physical home button. Some analysts predict that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor could be embedded in the display while others believe that Apple would use a new biometric technology in combination with the fingerprint scanner. JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall said in a research note to investors that the iPhone 8 could feature a 3D laser scanner for facial recognition.

iPhone 8 Concept
Image source: Apple designer – YouTube

Laser sensor relies on Primesense technology

Rod Hall is confident that the 3D laser sensing technology would replace Touch ID on the 10th anniversary iPhone. JPMorgan said the other two handsets releasing alongside the iPhone 8 – the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus – could also feature the facial recognition technology. Hall said the increased volume of the laser sensing module within Apple’s Asian supply chain indicates that the technology might not be limited to the iPhone 8.

The current Touch ID sensor has an error rate of one in 50,000. The laser-based 3D sensor is said to be far more accurate, which would enhance security. The new technology would require features like a light emitter, a light filter, a powerful signal processor, and a speedy image sensor. Rod Hall told investors that Apple had rectified all the difficulties in implementing the technology, using technology from its 2013 acquisition of Primesense.

3D laser sensor to increase the cost of iPhone 8

The laser scanner would increase the bill of materials for the iPhone 8 by $10-$15 per unit. Independent reports from Fast Company and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claim that the 10th anniversary iPhone would have a retail price of more than $1,000. Apple could justify the price tag with facial recognition, an expensive edge-to-edge OLED display, improved waterproofing, and wireless charging capabilities.

Since facial recognition is more secure than Touch ID fingerprint sensor, it may allow more banks and merchants to adopt Apple Pay. Hall says 3D scanning will also be used to support Augmented Reality (AR), but not before 2018. The analyst believes that the Cupertino company would eventually open up the 3D scanning API to developers. It would open up vast opportunities in everything from determining your shoe size for online purchase to accurate distance measurements to HomeKit integration to scanning for 3D printing.

Home button to be replaced by a ‘function area’

Rod Hall is not the only one predicting 3D laser sensor on the iPhone 8. Last month, Cowen & Company analyst Tim Arcuri said that the 10th anniversary iPhone would have a “facial/gesture recognition” technology supported by a “laser sensor and an infrared sensor” near the selfie camera. Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities also predicted earlier this week that the iPhone 8 would have “other biometric technologies” that would replace the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Kuo said in a research note that the iPhone 8 would feature a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display. But the actual active display would be 5.15-inch. The remaining real estate at the bottom of the screen would house a “function area” with virtual buttons. The function area is expected to be similar to the OLED Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro.