Apple may have just leaked some key details about the iPhone 8.
Developers have been trawling through the firmware code for the HomePod, Apple’s upcoming smart speaker, after Apple released it on Friday. And they say it offers tantalising clues as to what will be in the next iPhone — including face-unlocking technology and the shape of the screen.
The “iPhone 8” (or iPhone Edition, or iPhone X, or iPhone Pro, depending on who you ask) will be the tenth-anniversary edition of Apple’s smartphones, and is eagerly anticipated. Apple is expected to launch an incrementally improved new device, the 7s, in the fall of 2017 — but sitting alongside it will likely be the 8, with a radical redesign, significant new features, and a higher price.
There have been reports and rumours swirling for months now about the features of the iPhone 8 — including an almost edge-to-edge screen with no home button, wireless charging, an improved camera, and the ability to unlock it with your face via infrared sensors.
Developer Steve Troughton-Smith says he has found code referencing that last one in HomePod’s firmware. “I can confirm reports that HomePod’s firmware reveals the existence of upcoming iPhone’s infra-red face unlock in BiometricKit and elsewhere,” he wrote in a tweet on Sunday, alongside screengrabs of the code.
In recent years, Apple has secured iPhones with its biometric “Touch ID” fingerprint scanner. Touch ID has traditionally lived on the iPhone’s home button — but Apple is reportedly ditching the home button in the iPhone 8, which has led to uncertainty as to where Touch ID would go. Apple has reportedly tried to integrate it directly into the screen, and also looked at moving it to the back of the device, or even removing it entirely.
In early July, Bloomberg reported on the 3D face-scanning tech, writing: “The sensor’s speed and accuracy are focal points of the feature. It can scan a user’s face and unlock the iPhone within a few hundred milliseconds, the person said. It is designed to work even if the device is laying flat on a table, rather than just close up to the face.”
It’s not clear whether this face unlock technology would be intended to replace Touch ID completely, or simply sit alongside it as an alternate method for unlocking your phone.
Another developer, Guilherme Rambo, wrote on Twitter that he has also found the face unlock code, as well as something else interesting — an icon apparently depicting the front of the iPhone 8. The image seems to confirm earlier reports that its screen will stretch almost to the edges of the device.
However, don’t expect Apple to confirm or deny any of this. The famously secretive company almost ever talks about upcoming products before they’re officially announced.
The iPhone 8 is expected to be formally unveiled in September at Apple’s big annual event, alongside the 7s/7s Plus. But there has been speculation it may not hit shop shelves until later in the year, as Apple battles to solve technical challenges.
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I can confirm reports that HomePod’s firmware reveals the existence of upcoming iPhone’s infra-red face unlock in BiometricKit and elsewhere pic.twitter.com/yLsgCx7OTZ
— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) July 31, 2017