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Android Devs May Follow Apple's Face ID Lead

By John P. Mello Jr.
Oct 9, 2017 4:26 PM PT
apple-iphone-x-face-id

Apple's use of facial recognition to unlock its iPhone X may open the gates for developers champing at the bit to bring the technology to the Android world.

Face ID, which will replace fingerprint scanning in Apple's new US$1,000 iPhone X, uses Apple's TrueDepth 3D camera to verify the owner of a phone and unlock it.

Android developers have been working on similar systems and are close to bringing them to market, said George Brostoff, CEO of Sensible Vision.

"A lot of the Android photo [original equipment manufacturers] have been looking at facial recognition," he told the E-Commerce Times. "They've all been waiting for Apple to make the announcement before they did their final product go-aheads."

Many OEMs try to avoid risk, especially when producing an expensive component like a facial ID subsystem, but those organizations now feel more comfortable moving forward with their technologies, noted Brostoff.

"Apple took the risk out of innovation," he said.

Hot Interest in 3D

Android OEMs are well positioned to have facial ID products in the near future, according to Brostoff . "I can tell you from my experience and the companies that we're working with, you'll see phones with the technology in the first half of 2018, and even more in the second half."

Apple's choice of facial recognition over an under-display fingerprint scanner is going to tilt the smartphone market toward 3D-sensing solutions, maintained KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a report released Saturday.

Over the next two to three years, shipments of 3D sensor-equipped Android devices will exceed under-display fingerprint recognition by a factor of two or three or more, he predicted.

Since Apple announced Face ID, inquiries from Android smartphone vendors about 3D sensing technologies have at least tripled, Kuo noted.

If his predictions are right, Apple once again could transform the premium smartphone market.

"Facial recognition will likely become table stakes for high-end Android phones, including Samsung's Galaxy Note and Google's top-line Pixel," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"It will also open significant opportunities for biometric ID companies and entrepreneurs," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Hard to Get Right

Apple's weight behind a technology is a powerful force, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"Apple is a market leader on these technologies," he told the E-Commerce Times. "If Apple promotes them, they will be the next big thing, so makers of Android premium phones will want to match Apple's features."

Face ID will have to prove itself through usage, though, which is an unknown until the iPhone X is in consumers' hands.

"In theory, Face ID is a really nice feature, but it's a hard technology to get right," said Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates.

"If I'm an enterprise, I'm not going to buy into something like facial recognition as a primary user ID until it's proven to work as well as what I've got in place," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Consumer Reaction

How will consumers react to unlocking their phones with their mugs instead of their fingers?

"Early consumer response to Apple's Face ID have been a bit polarizing," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

Still, "I believe that true to Apple form, consumers will embrace and love it like Touch ID," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Dedicated Apple customers seem generally jazzed and excited about it," said Pund-IT's King, "but the notion that facial recognition is a game-changer that will drive new customers to Apple seems pretty far-fetched to me."

There also seems to be some resistance to using Face ID among the Apple faithful, whose money is on the line.

Forty percent of the U.S. iOS users who participated in a survey conducted last month said it was unlikely they would use facial recognition as a payment security technology, Juniper Research found.

This suggests that a core use case for the iPhone X's main security feature may struggle to gain traction among consumers, the firm noted.

There's another reason consumers may be reluctant to use Face ID.

"If government authorities want to unlock your phone and you don't want to unlock it," Tirias' Krewell pointed out, "they can just hold it up to your face and unlock it."


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.


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