If you followed rumors about the iPhone X for any amount of time over the last year, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with the saga that was under-display Touch ID. But now, Apple’s chief of hardware engineering says that none of those reports were true.
The story starts in 2016, when we first heard rumors that Apple was attempting to embed a fingerprint sensor underneath the iPhone X’s display glass. Over the last year, there has been a multitude of rumors suggesting Apple had actively tried — and failed — to get under-display Touch ID tech right. Some rumors even suggested Apple had resorted to a rear- or side-mounted sensor.
But, in a recent interview with TechCrunch, Apple hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio said that the company actually “spent no time” working on fingerprint authentication for the iPhone X. “I heard some rumor (that) we couldn’t get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that,” Riccio said in response to a question about late design changes.
The Apple chief goes on to explain how that wasn’t true. Apple instead focused on getting Face ID to be as good as it could be. “So we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things, which would be a last-minute change, they would be a distraction relative to enabling the more important thing that we were trying to achieve, which was Face ID done in a high-quality way,” Riccio told the publication.
Of course, with the sheer number of reports and rumors suggesting that some form of Touch ID would be present on the OLED flagship, it’s a bit suspicious that Apple spent “no time” exploring it. With some of the earliest Touch ID rumors stretching back to May 2016, it’s probable that the company at least tentatively explored the idea but dropped it after going with Face ID.
That seems to be corroborated by a number of patents that Apple holds concerning getting fingerprint authentication to work through display glass. Several of those were applied for and granted during the time that the iPhone X was in development.
Under-display Touch ID rumors were reiterated as recently as this summer, too. And several reports suggested that Apple was struggling to embed Touch ID as late as July — which, at the time, played into rumors that the iPhone X would be delayed.
It’s worth noting that analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities — who is usually an accurate source of Apple forecasts — said in July that the premium OLED handset would ditch fingerprint authentication.
Whether Apple spent any time working to get Touch ID on the iPhone X, it’s looking likely now that the fingerprint authentication method will soon be a thing of the past. Kuo said earlier this month that Apple could use Face ID on all of its handsets next year, as well as on its 2018 lineup of iPad tablets.