This function area will display virtual buttons, providing access to system functions, with Kuo's note mentioning a possible set of always-on, static system controls. While technically part of the display panel, it is unknown if this function area could be used as part of the main display for certain in-app activities, such as watching a video or playing games.
The OLED iPhone will feature "significant changes in form factor,” suggests Kuo, and will have "considerably better" specifications compared to the LCD models. This means that despite having a smaller screen than the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus model, the OLED version will be the most high-end model.
Touch ID/Fingerprint Recognition
have circulated that Apple is developing a new class of bio-recognition technologies that play nice with “full-face,” or zero-bezel, displays. This technology could replace the existing Touch ID that uses fingerprints. This new technology could be implemented as early as this year, which means it could make its way into the "iPhone 8."
A capacitive solution, Touch ID sends a small electrical charge through a user's finger by way of a stainless steel metal ring. While the fingerprint sensing module is an “under glass” design, the ring must be accessible to the user at all times, making the solution unsuitable for inclusion in devices with full-face screens.
Recent patent fillings also show that Apple has been working on
fingerprint sensors that work through displays, as well as gaining related patents through acquisitions. That means Apple could turn to optical type fingerprint sensing technology capable of accepting readings through OLED panels without need for capacitive charge components. These “under panel” systems allow for a completely uniform screen surface, an aesthetic toward which the smartphone industry is trending.
In one patent, transferred to Apple from its acquisition of LuxVue
, there is also the possibility of turning the display panel itself into a fingerprint sensor, using a combination of infrared light emitters and sensors. While this presents other benefits, such as using the entire screen for fingerprint recognition instead of a defined region and completely replacing bulky capacitive sensor components, it is unlikely this specific method will be used in the next iPhone generation.
Another patent for an "Acoustic imaging system architecture
" describes the use of transducers to generate acoustic waves through a surface, such as an iPhone's coverglass. The same hardware can then be switched into a second detection mode that monitors reflections, attenuations, and diffractions caused by the foreign objects in contact with the surface, such as a finger, to generate an approximated two-dimensional map.
The filing claims the system can be used to map out the ridges of a finger pad, which can then be compared against a database of maps generated by the user registering their fingers beforehand. As the system isn't limited to just the display, it can be mounted practically anywhere on the device's chassis, and has the potential to saple a user's entire handprint.
According to a March report from DigiTimes
, Apple will be developing its own custom fingerprint sensor,
using an algorithm from AuthenTec -- acquired by Apple in 2012 -- combined with glass identification technology from Privaris, and using TSMC's 12-inch production line and a 65-nanometer process. Suggesting it would not use a capacitive Touch ID sensor, the report claims Apple will use other methods to read the fingerprint, such as with ultrasound.
Despite the multitude of rumors circulating around the home button's removal, it is highly likely
for Touch ID to remain on the rumored smartphone. Sources of Mac Otakara
claim Apple is working on multiple next-generation prototypes
, with versions including and excluding the Touch ID home button undergoing engineering verification testing (EVT).
The report claims Apple may not have actually settled on the specification of the "iPhone 8," with the choice of using IPS TFT or AMOLED displays, different chassis designs, and other elements still yet to be finalized.
Alternative Biometric Security
As far as alternative bio-recognition tech, Apple could be looking to completely replace fingerprint sensors with facial or iris recognition systems. Analysts believe facial recognition will be first due to a growing number of patent fillings for such solutions (1
). However, Apple supposedly also has eye scanning technology
There are, however, barriers that stand in the way of implementation, such as software design, hardware component development and the creation of a verification database, among other backend bottlenecks.
Even so, analyst Rod Hall of investment firm J.P. Morgan suggests there to be a 3D laser scanning module
in the "iPhone 8," which could be used for facial recognition. Hall believes Apple partner Primesense has managed to combine a light emitter, light filter, image sensor, and signal processor into a relatively inespensive package, which may make up 3 percent of the cost to build an iPhone.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo writes in February that the "iPhone 8's" FaceTime camera will be accompanied by an infrared transmitter
and an infrared recieving module, which could be used for 3D sensing and modeling. This could be used to drive a facial recognition system, with Kuo also suggesting it could be employed for iris recognition.
Kuo believes Apple is far ahead of its Android-based competition in terms of facial recognition algorithms, with rivals expected to catch up over the next two years.
While facial recognition may have a slim chance of appearing in the "iPhone 8," it hasn't stopped Apple from investing in the technology. Apple has reportedly acquired RealFace
, the developer behind software that uses machine learning to perform "frictionless face recognition," as well as creating an app to mathematically determine a user's best photographs.
In March, it was claimed by a source of iGeneration
that STMicroelectronics is producing the 3D imaging sensors in a factory in France
, with the Crolles facility closeby to Apple's Grenoble research center, one dedicated to imaging technology.
This claim seems to correlates with reports that STMicroelectronics is doubling its annual investment to $1 billion for "new products and specialized technologies." CEO Carlo Bozotti has publicized a contract that is expected to generate "substantial" revenues in the second half of 2017 from an unnamed client, further helping the production rumor's cause.
The same report also plays into rumors of a delayed release for the "iPhone 8," with the claim that STMicroelectronics might not have enough components produced in time for Apple's usual September launch window.
The STMicroelectronics claim is echoed in analyst notes
from Timothy Arcuri of Cowen & Company in March 2017, identifying it as a supplier for the front-facing camera's CMOS sensor. Arcuri also writes that Heptagon/AMS will provide the infrared sensor, while Lumentium and Finisar will offer the laser emitter.
Arcuri is also insistent that this technology will only appear in the "iPhone 8," and not the "iPhone 7s" series.
3D Touch sensor price increase
The new 3D Touch sensor in the "iPhone 8" is expected to cost between 30 and 50 percent more than the one currently found in the iPhone 7 series. The assorted cost increases could explain why rumors suggest the "iPhone X" will carry a starting price tag of more than $1,000. A $1,000-plus price tag would be the most expensive iPhone Apple has ever produced. The company's current top-of-the-line model, a 256-gigabyte iPhone 7 Plus, runs $969.
However, analysts believe the phone's new sensor will offer a better 3D Touch experience for users, though they haven't indicated in what ways performance or capabilities might improve.
The same reports indicated "a memory upgrade from the current iPhone 7 line" is in store. Yet, whether that means faster memory or a new high-end 512-gigabyte capacity was not indicated.
One report from Digitimes, concerning investments by display producers in their OLED production lines, hints at why the cost could increase. It is claimed the glass panel-based touch screen solution used in LCD displays would have to be switched out for a thin film solution for the OLED panels, with the manufacturers spending heavily on the production lines to maintain Apple's desired levels of precision.
For current LCD panels, the glass-based 3D Touch sensor is estimated to cost around $9 per unit. Producing a thin film version for OLED panels is said to bring this per-component cost closer to $15, somewhat correlating with earlier price increase rumors.
Plus-sized, fast-charging battery
By shrinking components inside of "iPhone 8," Apple apparently plans to squeeze a Plus-sized battery into a smaller form factor. Specifically, plans call for a 2,700 mAh battery, which would put the battery capacity on par with the current iPhone 7 Plus, despite having the smaller form factor.
In fact, with a 5.1- to 5.2-inch edge-to-edge OLED display, the "iPhone 8" or "iPhone X" will carry dimensions similar to the 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Apple plans to accomplish this with a stacked logic board, called a substrate-like PCB mainboard. Shrinking the components themselves is necessary because battery technology is not expected to improve in the next 3 to 5 years.
In addition, thanks to the use of a low-power OLED panel, the battery life of the "iPhone 8" could be even better than a 5.5-inch LCD iPhone.If Apple were to include a "dark mode" option in a future version of iOS, it could offer even greater battery savings with an OLED display.
While there are rumors of wireless charging being included in the "iPhone 8," there may be another power-related change included. A note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests the 2-cell L-shaped battery pack design, combined with "Type-C Power Delivery," will give the "iPhone 8" fast-charging capabilities.
To help maintain stable data transmissions while fast charging is underway, as well as to keep the process safe, Kuo believes Apple will take advantage of power management processes from Texas Instruments and power delivery chips from Cypress.