As Apple developed the iPhone X, there were plenty of rumors over the last year suggesting that Apple was trying very, very hard to implement Touch ID into the all-screen design.
Apple’s Hardware Engineering lead, Dan Riccio, took some time to talk with TechCrunch, and revealed that Apple had been focused on Face ID as its next big security feature basically right out of the gate. According to Riccio, they heard the rumors that Apple had tested other alternatives for Touch ID, like on the back of the handset, under the display, or even on the side (in a button), but that none of that was actually happening.
Apple was moving ahead with Face ID and Touch ID wasn’t considered:
“I heard some rumor [that] we couldn’t get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that,” Riccio says, answering a question about whether there were late design changes. “When we hit early line of sight on getting Face ID to be [as] good as it was, we knew that if we could be successful we could enable the product that we wanted to go off and do and if that’s true it could be something that we could burn the bridges and be all in with. This is assuming it was a better solution. And that’s what we did. So we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things, which would be a last-minute change, they would be a distraction relative to enabling the more important thing that we were trying to achieve, which was Face ID done in a high-quality way.”
Reports about Touch ID on the iPhone X were just as common as the belief that Apple would also call the upcoming device the iPhone 8. We heard over and over that Apple was under some kind of pressure to get Touch ID under the display. We heard that Apple was not able to get Touch ID under the screen, so the next alternative was to put it on the back. And even that Touch ID could be implemented on the side.
As those rumors continued, analysts weighed in, and many painted a picture where Apple was a apparently desperate to try and get Touch ID into the iPhone X and that, ultimately, they went with Face ID because they couldn’t figure out a Touch ID method.
However, it’s hard to argue that Apple didn’t basically throw a ton of technology into the TrueDepth camera system, and that doesn’t really suggest it was a last-minute pivot from another plan. Of course, it’s possible that Apple did at least try to figure out Touch ID, at least early in development, but it sounds like Face ID has been the go-to biometric security measure for quite some time.