In October of 2017, Apple introduced the original iPhone X, a device that holds a significant place in history as the vehicle for several important leaps in the company’s phone design.
The most pronounced change was the introduction of a new security protocol known as Face ID... and the hideous, in-screen notch required to house a camera, an infrared dot projector, and infrared camera. The technology, originally sold as an improvement over Touch ID in both its ability to spot a device’s true owner and its inability to be cracked by would-be snoops was not welcomed with the warmest reception. While the parlor tricks the tech behind Face ID has enabled — animoji probably being the most popular example — might be great for kids and once in a while, kinda-sorta useful for adults, the new security protocol often feels like a hassle.
That hassle has become more exasperating and pronounced as literally the entire world has taken to wearing a mask that covers up half their face. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Face ID went from being a slight pain in the ass to a daily — sometimes hourly — exercise in frustration. Now in addition to being a questionably more secure (and certainly less legally protective) form of defense for your phone, it’s also become a roadblock in daily use.
Today, Apple all but admitted it can change this if it wants to. With the introduction of the new iPad Air, which features Touch ID mapped to its power button, the company has made it clear that reducing its fingerprint reader’s size down to something easily manageable on a phone with no dedicated “home” button is possible. The $599 Air puts Touch ID back in place as it used to exist on every Apple iPhone. It can be used for device unlocking, Apple Pay payments, and the ever-annoying process of confirming that yes, you do in fact want to install the software you just told the App Store that you explicitly wanted to install (current Touch ID-less models require a double tap of the power button for this... which makes no sense at all).
I think if you asked most Apple customers today which unlock method they would prefer — particularly during this pandemic which is not going away any time soon — if they’d like their screen real estate back and Touch ID restored, the answer would be a near-universal “yes.” My guess is that Apple is more than capable of packing its Face ID components into a smaller or nonexistent notch, and could easily work Touch ID onto the sleep / wake button as it’s done on this year’s redesigned iPad Air.
As a member of the mask-wearing public, I implore the company to make the switch. Even if the notch remains (gross, but okay), there are simply far too many reasons why fingerprints should be included as a viable alternative (or additive) to the security features of the iPhone 12.
Tim Cook: you definitely have a face and I know you endorse mask-wearing. Hell your company even made its own version. Do the right thing.
Let us stroke our iPhones again.