One of the most consistent rumors about the iPhone 8 is that it would ditch the physical home button. Eliminating the home button would allow Apple to increase the display without increasing the phone’s size. While some analysts believe that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor would be embedded in the display, others speculate that the Touch ID might be replaced by another method such as facial recognition.

iPhone 8
Image Credit: Apple Inc. / USPTO (screenshot)

Will acoustic system replace Touch ID on iPhone 8?

A new patent indicates that Apple may replace Touch ID with an Acoustic Imaging System for fingerprint recognition. The US Patent & Trademark Office (via Apple Insider) published a patent Thursday that describes how the new technology could detect your fingerprint. Titled Acoustic Imaging System Interface, the patent was filed by Apple in August last year.

The acoustic transducers could help Apple replace not one but two sensors that prevent it from offering a bezel-less iPhone. It involves placing an array of acoustic transducers underneath the display or the protective housing. The transducers generate acoustic waves and then monitor diffractions, reflections, and attenuations to the waves caused by a foreign object such as your finger that is in contact with the display or any other input-responsive substrate.

iPhone 8 Patent
Image Credit: Apple Inc. / USPTO (screenshot)

This technology could make proximity sensor redundant

A built-in image resolver analyzes the electrical signals to create a unique signature for the acoustic wave reflections caused by the tiny ridges on your finger pad.  This data is compared against a database of known fingerprints to unlock the device, make Apple Pay transactions, and sign in to different apps. According to the patent filing, the acoustic system could be installed anywhere in a phone’s chassis without hindering a user’s interaction with the screen.

The acoustic transducers could also be configured to scan other body parts such as your ear or skin pattern to determine how the handset is being held. The device would be able to detect whether you are talking on the phone, and turn off the display during the call. It would eliminate the need for a separate proximity sensor, making more room available for the display.

iPhone 8 to have a dedicated ‘function area’ at the bottom

It is too early to say whether the acoustic imaging technology would debut with the iPhone 8. But the patent indicates that Apple has been exploring alternative technologies. The iPhone 8 is said to have a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge OLED display, but the actual display area would be just 5.15-inch. The remaining screen at the bottom would be occupied by a “function area” that would serve dynamic controls based on whatever app you are using.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in a research note to investors that the iPhone 8’s longer battery life would prompt the owners of older iPhones to upgrade at an “accelerated” pace. The 10th anniversary iPhone is said to pack a huge 2,700mAh battery, even though its dimensions would be similar to the 4.7-inch iPhone 7.