Apple Working on Full-Screen Touch ID and a New iPhone SE for Its 2020 Lineup

Apple Patents Under-Display Fingerprint Sensor Amid Face ID Rumors
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Apple’s 2019 iPhones are still a few months away, yet we’re already hearing more reports on what Apple could have in the works for its 2020 lineup. While we’ve known for a while that Apple will bring 5G to the iPhone next year, details are still pretty sketchy on what other features could be coming down the road.

However, a new research note from Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis shared by MacRumors reveals a few new details that have been gleaned from Apple’s Asian supply chain, some of which confirm what we’ve already been hearing about this year’s iPhone lineup, along with some new predictions for next year.

The 2019 iPhones

The Barclays note didn’t have much new to offer regarding this year’s iPhones, mostly confirming earlier reports that they’ll see relatively few design changes beyond the additional rear camera lenses that we’ve been hearing about for a while now. The new iPhone XR will also apparently get a bump in RAM from 3GB to 4GB, again lining up with previous rumours.

One interesting revelation, however, is the renewed suspicion that this year could spell the end of 3D Touch. Barclays predicted this last year, and now it’s doubling down on its bet, suggesting that we’ll probably instead see an expansion of the Haptic Touch feature that debuted on the iPhone XR.

While 3D Touch is a very cool and useful feature, it’s never really taken off among mainstream users, perhaps simply because it’s not intuitively discoverable, and because support for it has been limited to certain devices; no iPad has ever offered 3D Touch, nor did Apple’s iPhone SE, and in fact we think the writing may have been on the wall when Apple chose to release the iPhone XR last year without the feature, likely due to engineering and cost challenges in implementing it with the new Liquid Retina Display.

Either way, as much as we like 3D Touch, we don’t think it was enough of a selling feature by itself to push users to an iPhone XS or XS Max, and the iPhone XR has sold very well despite lacking the feature. We think it’s more important that Apple apply the technology consistently, so if they’re not going to add it to their entire iPhone lineup, phasing it out entirely is probably for the best.

2020 Could Be Very Exciting

As we would expect, Apple may have more up its sleeve for next year, however. If the Barclays note is accurate, this will not only include the 5G support that’s been a hot topic lately in the midst of all of Apple’s wrangling with Qualcomm and Intel, but also the 3D sensing rear camera system that we’ve been hearing bits and pieces about for the past couple of years, and new acoustic fingerprinting technology that would allow for the return of Touch ID to the home-buttonless iPhone design.

While the latter is the subject of much debate since Apple’s introduction of Face ID, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility, and there’s enough evidence that Apple has at least been toying with the idea. We don’t think this would spell the end of Face ID, but there’s certainly value in providing an alternative authentication method, as there are still situations in which Touch ID actually works better.

This also makes another case as to why Apple would need to eliminate 3D Touch from its iPhones — it’s easy to see how acoustic fingerprinting technology that affects the entire front screen would be incompatible with Touch ID, or at least difficult to integrate. Phasing out 3D Touch this year would pave the way for Apple to more easily go in new directions in 2020.

The iPhone SE

Barclays analysts also note that the iPhone SE as a concept may not be dead after all, however fans of the traditional four-inch form factor may be less thrilled at what’s coming. A few suppliers said that the “iPhone SE 2” could come in early 2020, but it would pack in the iPhone 8 internals, and likely the same physical design.

We’ve been hearing mixed reports about something else that Apple is working on in terms of a lower-end iPhone, including suggestions that there’s something called an iPhone XE in the works. It’s much less clear whether this would be a direct successor to the iPhone SE or something else entirely, particularly since the “X” prefix suggests that it would use the new full-screen form factor and include Face ID rather than a home button.

Reports about the new lower-end iPhone SE replacement seemed to be less consistent, with some suppliers saying that they had no knowledge of it at all. Regardless, however, it seems very likely that Apple is working on something in this category, as it really needs to produce a more affordable iPhone with the competition it’s been facing from other smartphone manufacturers, since the flagship iPhone XS and even the so-called “economy” iPhone XR remain out of reach of many consumers, especially in developing countries.

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