The problem with OLED and Touch ID on iPhone 8...

Touch ID sensors on multiple iPhones
Touch ID sensors on multiple iPhones (Image credit: iMore)

I'm typically less interested in rumors about what Apple may or may not be doing than problems that need to be solved and how Apple could address them. OLED and Touch ID on iPhone 8 is one of those problems.

Financial Analyst and supply-chain spelunker, Ming Chi-Kuo, as quoted by MacRumors:

Apple may switch to a film sensor from the current FPCB sensor in order to provide better 3D Touch user experience, as a film sensor offers higher sensitivity. Also, we expect the new OLED iPhone will come with a flexible OLED panel. To avoid deforming the form factor of the flexible OLED panel from touch operation pressure, a metal structural part will be placed under the film sensor to provide more robust structural support.

Here's the thing: 3D Touch, as currently implemented on iPhone, is dependent on the LCD screen's LED backlight. The LED is what measures the deformation of the glass under pressure and provides that data to iOS. Take away the LCD by switching to OLED technology, and you take away the LED. Take away the LED, and you take away the current implementation of 3D Touch.

So, if Apple is indeed switching to OLED for iPhone 8 they, by necessity, also have to change how 3D Touch works on iPhone 8. That's not a huge deal — Force Touch on Apple Watch uses a different implementation of pressure sensitivity, and Force Touch on the Mac Trackpad another implementation different than both. There are numerous ways to make pressure sensitivity work, Apple will simply use the one that best fits the requirements of the device.

Same with OLED. There are numerous screen technologies, including LCD, OLED, and Quantum Dot. They're also just implementation details. Apple, again, will use the one that best fits the device. Earlier on, that was LCD for quality. (PenTile sub-pixels were not a good thing.) Then it was LCD for 3D Touch. If Apple wants to do something LCD can't do, like gett thinner, more energy efficient, and curve the display, the OLED begins to win out. (Especially newer, better OLED.)

It's similar to NFC and why it's not opened up on iPhone. Apple considered NFC going back to the iPhone 4/s days but back then it was a chipset Apple doesn't do chipsets, they do feature sets. In other words, Apple doesn't do NFC, they do Apple Pay. That's why NFC was never added to iPhone — Apple Pay was. NFC was just an implementation detail. Maybe one day it'll be opened up or will enable additional features, but Apple Pay got it in there.

Judging by the bio-recognition patents that Apple has applied for, we believe it is leaning toward facial recognition technology rather than iris recognition. However, we note that the technical challenges of facial recognition include: (1) algorithms; (2) hardware design; and (3) the build-out of a database for verification and authentication, which could be time-consuming. As such, before Apple can fully replace the fingerprint system with facial recognition, a combination of the two steps of bio-recognition could be a valid solution for enhancing transactions security.

Apple patents everything, so it's tough to read too much into them. That said, biometrics aren't security — they're convenience. They aren't passwords — they're user IDs.

Biometrics aren't security — they're convenience.

Also, two-steps don't enhance security, they enhance complexity. Two factors enhance security. Biometrics are both "something you are". For a second factor, you'd need to require the password as well for "something you know".

One of my biggest requests for iOS remains the ability to choose to require both a password and biometrics, be that Touch ID or any technology Apple may add in the future. That would enable true two-factor for device access.

You could also throw in a third factor — trusted device proximity with Apple Watch — for those who want full-on three factor. Then you'd have "something you are", "something you know", and "something you have". Best of all, with the way Touch ID and Auto Unlock are already implemented, they're virtually transparent.

Two-factor, even three-factor, would essentially be as easy as one — password.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • So an acceptable phone unlock would be something akin to reading your fingerprint (biometric) as you complete a pattern (password adjacent)?
  • Still not sure why Apple had to come up with the extra complexity of force touch when Google solved this in their OS by touching and holding instead of pressing harder. Seems like Apple chose the less elegant solution this time.
  • Force touch is brilliant if you use it. It's not a different version of long-press (iPhones have had that as long as I can remember), it's a third way to interact with the screen. Try it out on a demo phone sometime. The combination with the Taptic feedback is brilliant and beautiful.
  • Exactly , people who think 3D Touch and long press are the same don't understand 3D Touch and what makes it so great.
  • It's easy to see why some people confuse the two and agreeably it's largely down to them not appreciating how the two technologies differ. I've had both the 6s Plus and currently the 7 which incorporate the 3D Touch technology. While it's a nice 'touch' (excuse the pun) to have, like DanRJones91 below says, it's not a deal breaker for me. The reason? Because, for me, the issue isn't 'how' they work but rather 'what' they achieve and that is that both technologies, regardless of how they differ, can achieve the same result.
  • All iPhones from the 6 and earlier have had long press for YEARS, far before Google, and it is NOTHING like force touch. Force touch is so much more than a simple press and hold, so it's obvious you have never actually used it before.
  • If anything, Apple's version is FAR more elegant. I can't remember how many times I left my finger on the screen "slightly" too long and a random menu popped up on Android. Not to mention if Android "lagged" it would register that my finger was still pressed down during this lag and assume it was a long press. 3D touch prevents this, as I can only activate it by putting a decent amount of pressure on the screen
  • Valid issues for sure, however, both issues can be remedied to a greater or lesser extent. Adjusting the sensitivity of the screen could resolve the "slightly too long" issue and faster processors, RAM, less bloated OS, etc would most likely solve the "lag" issue.
  • I actually agree with you, and I have had an iPhone with 3D touch. Everything 3D touch achieves could be achieved with a long press, and the slight rejig of some elements to accommodate that would be pretty trivial. All it is is an implementation of shortcuts. 3D touch was nice to have, but it certainly isn't a deal breaker and i've never pined for it since not having it.
    (Of course, I wait with bated breath to be told that I wasn't using it properly or that I'm outright lying about having used it, or blah blah blah) Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • On the home screen how would you delete apps then? Sent from the iMore App
  • Simple, Delete (and Move) could be option(s) in the shortcut list that appears with a long press...
  • That seems a lot less intuitive than the current implementation
  • I find 3D Touch to be a distraction when trying to do that.
  • Agreed. I enjoy 3D Touch from a cursor moving perspective (allowing trackpad like action in the iOS keyboard), but find that it make the process of moving or deleting app icons much more tedious. You have to press just right to engage the icon but not invoke the 3D Touch. It's janky.
  • I'd like my phone to bypass the lock screen / Touch ID all together just like it does on the Mac when an Apple Watch is being worn. I've only had my Watch for about a month and I already hate typing in my password on my Mac on rate occasions when I have to.
  • The problem with the thing you have part for 3 factirs authentification is that you loose access to everything once your apple watch is out of battery!! Sent from the iMore App
  • Who gives a s**t what Apple is doing with the iPhone?
  • Probably most people on this website, given that this is a website about Apple devices
  • You don't lose your audio port, you have the adapter that comes with the phone, along with Lightning earphones. Not a dumb move, it's removing old technology that's limited now. Other companies are following too, plus the Galaxy S8 is rumored to not have a headphone jack either
  • Leaked GS8 purported images and case mocks are contradicting that rumor. Guess we'll see when the device is announced.
  • We will 😊
  • I assume you're playing out of the car speakers, so why not just use Bluetooth? If you car doesn't have Bluetooth there are cheap Bluetooth adapters for your car. Then you can charge your phone as well. Problem solved.
  • Because it's a lot easier to have your phone automatically connect to your car as soon as you start it up? You either get with the times with technology or you lag behind, that's your choice
  • No need to do OLED in order to have flexible screen. Crisis avoided Renee...! Sent from the iMore App