Apple Reportedly Reduced Face ID Accuracy to Speed Up iPhone X Production

Several reports in recent months have covered Apple's struggle to ensure significant components for the upcoming iPhone X can be produced in large enough quantities to meet demand, with the main culprit being the 3D sensing modules that power the phone's TrueDepth camera and Face ID technology. In a surprise development, a new Bloomberg report today claims that Apple overcame its production challenges by quietly telling suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face recognition technology to make the iPhone X easier to manufacture.

Apple's production struggles have centered on the complex 3D sensor, which consists of a dot projector, flood illuminator, and infrared camera. The flood illuminator beams infrared light, which the camera uses to establish the presence of a face. The projector then flashes 30,000 dots onto the face which the phone uses to decide whether to unlock the home screen. Specifically, Apple has had trouble making enough of the fragile modules that combine to make up the dot projector, as Bloomberg reports:

iphonextruedepthcamera 1

Precision is key. If the microscopic components are off by even several microns, a fraction of a hair's breadth, the technology might not work properly, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The fragility of the components reportedly created problems for Apple suppliers LG Innotek and Sharp. At one point, only about 20 percent of the dot projectors the two companies produced were usable, according to a person familiar with the manufacturing process. The suppliers therefore slowed production in an effort to prevent breakages but lowered the required level of precision to compensate – a decision apparently mandated by Apple.

To boost the number of usable dot projectors and accelerate production, Apple relaxed some of the specifications for Face ID, according to a different person with knowledge of the process. As a result, it took less time to test completed modules, one of the major sticking points, the person said. 

It's not clear how much the new specs will reduce the technology's efficacy, and Apple has declined to comment. However, as the report notes, a downgraded Face ID will probably still be far more accurate than Touch ID, where the odds of someone other than the owner of a phone being able to unlock it are one in 50,000. Even so, Apple is famously demanding on suppliers and manufacturers to help it make technological leaps and retain a competitive edge, which makes this story about the company choosing to downgrade the accuracy of Face ID all the more surprising, regardless of whether real-world functionality remains unaffected.

The delicacy involved in this production challenge has reportedly been further hampered by Apple losing one of its laser suppliers early on. The dot projector uses something called a vertical cavity surface-emitting laser, or VCSEL. The laser beams light through a lens known as a wafer-level optic, which focuses it into the 30,000 points of infra-red light projected onto the user's face. According to the report, California-based Finisar failed to meet Apple's laser specifications in time for the start of production, and now the company is racing to meet the standards by the end of October. That has left Apple reliant on fewer laser suppliers than it originally expected.

As it stands however, Apple appears to have overcome the biggest production hurdles. Sharp is reportedly working to bring the production yield for dot projectors above 50 percent, while LG Innotek has already surpassed that level, which both companies are said to consider acceptable. As a result the 3D sensor shortage is expected to end in early 2018, according to the report.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will have two to three million handsets available on launch day and 25 million to 30 million units for the holiday quarter, down from his previous forecast of 40 million. Pre-orders for the iPhone X begin this Friday, October 27 at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple has said there will also be some stock of the smartphone for walk-in customers arriving early to its retail locations on November 3, the official iPhone X launch day.

Tag: Face ID

Top Rated Comments

iamMacPerson Avatar
45 months ago
Quantity over Quality. Making it on time over Making it right. The new Apple way. Just look at iOS 11.
Score: 136 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannys1 Avatar
45 months ago
If you live in the UK you definitely shouldn't order an iPhone X, definitely wait. DO NOT ORDER ON LAUCH. Especially a 256gb White, it'll be rubbish, do not order. Don't bother. You don't need it.
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Swampthing Avatar
45 months ago
I can already see it now. Next year please buy our new iPhone with enhanced facial recognition!
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lone Deranger Avatar
45 months ago
"Reduced accuracy". If true, it's not really what you want to hear from a $1000+ gadget. How about you reduce your prices along with it, Apple!
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
djcerla Avatar
45 months ago
Quantity over Quality. Making it on time over Making it right. The new Apple way. Just look at iOS 11.
Don't believe everything you read.

- Steve Jobs
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SethBoy Avatar
45 months ago
Right, and in tomorrow’s news, Apple will replace the notch with a fingerprint sensor to speed up production. :rolleyes:
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

new m1 chip

M1 Mac RAM and SSD Upgrades Found to Be Possible After Purchase

Tuesday April 6, 2021 5:34 am PDT by
Technicians in China have reportedly succeeded in upgrading the memory and storage of the M1 chip, suggesting that Apple's integrated custom silicon for the Mac may be more flexible than previously thought. Reports of maintenance technicians being able to expand the memory and storage of M1 Macs began circulating on Chinese social media over the weekend, but now international reports have...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
apple music for artists new icon

Apple's Revamped Apple Music for Artists Icon Leads to Speculation About iOS 15 Design Plans

Tuesday April 6, 2021 1:03 pm PDT by
Apple yesterday updated its Apple Music for Artists app with some minor bug fixes and improvements, but also one other notable change -- a new icon. New icon on the right The Apple Music for Artists app now features a simpler, streamlined icon with a pinkish red music logo rather than the multicolored logo that was used before. The icon also has an embossed look that makes it stand out from...
iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Value of iPad Pro, iPhone 11, and Select Mac Models

Monday April 5, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Apple has adjusted the trade-in values of a number of its products, including the majority of the iPad and Mac lineup, while also making some changes to iPhone. Apple's trade-in program allows customers to trade-in older devices, and receive a certain amount of value for them, to use towards a purchase of a new device. The exact trade-in value a device has is measured by its condition, when ...
samsung galaxy iphone

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on an iPhone prompts users to install a web app to the Home...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...
Intel MBP Is Thin and Lighjt

Intel Ad for 'World's Best Processor' Features a MacBook Pro

Wednesday April 7, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Intel has been on a relentless marketing drive against Mac computers in recent weeks, positioning them as inferior to Windows laptops powered by Intel processors. In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as "the world's best processor." The ad appeared on Reddit and ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

Mass Production of A15 Chip for iPhone 13 Set to Begin Ahead of Schedule in Late May

Tuesday April 6, 2021 7:29 am PDT by
Longtime Apple supplier TSMC is set to begin mass shipments of Apple's upcoming A15 chip for the iPhone 13 ahead of schedule at the end of May, according to a snippet of a full report set to be published tomorrow by DigiTimes. The new chip will be based on an enhanced version of the 5nm process, which first debuted in the A14 Bionic with the 2020 iPad Air and iPhone 12 lineup. While the full ...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp Testing Ability to Transfer Chats Between iOS and Android

Tuesday April 6, 2021 12:37 am PDT by
WhatsApp is testing a new feature that will allow users to transfer their chat history, logs, and transcripts between iOS and Android devices, making it easier for WhatsApp users to switch between the two platforms. The new future, in the early stages of development, was brought to light by WABetaInfo, who often shares unreleased and hidden features behind the chatting service. According to ...