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Apple’s Face ID struggles detailed in new iPhone X report

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iPhone X

We’ve known for months that the iPhone X will be very difficult to buy until 2018, but a new report is providing some details on what Apple is doing to improve the situation. Bloomberg reports that Apple has lowered the specifications for its Face ID components, to allow its supply chain to manufacture the iPhone X quicker. “It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture,” says Bloomberg.

This reduction in accuracy appears to have taken place around the time of the iPhone X unveiling last month, but Bloomberg only says “early fall.” Apple announced the Face ID feature for the iPhone X on September 12th, noting its superior accuracy to Touch ID. Apple claims Face ID’s accuracy is 1,000,000:1, compared to 50,000:1 for Touch ID. If Apple has reduced the accuracy, the company will still be able to claim that Face ID is far more accurate than Touch ID.

Face ID sensors
Face ID sensors
Image: Apple

Face ID’s dot projector, the hardware that emits 30,000 infrared beams onto a face, is reportedly at the heart of the iPhone X production problems. We’ve heard reports that this component was causing shortages, and Bloomberg claims early supplier Finisar didn’t meet Apple’s tight requirements in time for production. Sharp and LG Innotek have also reportedly struggled to combine the laser and lens to make dot projectors, and at one stage only 20 percent of the company’s dot projectors were usable.

Apple’s reduction in accuracy has allowed these companies to test parts quicker, but Bloomberg says it’s not clear how this will affect Face ID in reality. If it improves the number of iPhone X handsets being manufactured without any noticeable difference, it will be a big win for Apple. Analysts are expecting Apple to have around two or three million iPhone X handsets for launch next week, which will mean it’s going to be very difficult to preorder a device on Friday.

Update October 24th, 1:05pm: Apple has released a statement calling Bloomberg’s report of decreased iPhone X Face ID accuracy “completely false”.