It’s the last big iPhone 8 mystery! Will it? Won’t it? What on Earth is the deal with Touch ID?? Early iPhone 8 rumors made it seem like a sure thing that the handset would be the first widely available smartphone to feature an in-display fingerprint sensor. Since then, however, more and more doubt has been cast. Some rumors have said the scanner would be on the back of the iPhone 8, but those reports have since been dispelled. Others claim Touch ID might be integrated into the power button on the side of the phone. In fact, we’ve heard that ourselves a few times, though only from unproven sources.

The bad news is we don’t have any answers for you yet. The potentially worse news is that a new leak adds a little more weight to the notion that Apple’s upcoming new flagship iPhone actually might not have Touch ID at all. 

Remember all those reports that said the iPhone 8 would feature an impressive new facial recognition feature? Well, a new leak on Thursday morning reveals that the phone’s new facial recognition will indeed be used to authenticate Apple Pay payments. The source of this leak is the same HomePod software that developers have been picking apart for nearly a week now, so the news comes straight from the horse’s mouth. Barring any issues Apple’s engineers run into, this feature will 100% be on Apple’s iPhone 8.

So, if Apple’s new facial recognition solution is secure enough to authenticate payments, it’s clearly secure enough to unlock a user’s phone and approve App Store downloads. After all, reports have suggested that Apple is using a sophisticated 3D scanning technique that’s far more secure than something like the iris scanning feature on Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Add to that the fact that KGI Securities analyst Minch-Chi Kuo reported that the iPhone 8 won’t have Touch ID, and it seems increasingly likely that this will be the case. After all, Kuo is one of the last remaining sources of accurate Apple leaks.

Should we panic? Would life without Touch ID be a nightmare? Let’s stop for a moment and think about this logically.

Apple’s $356 million acquisition of AuthenTec in 2012 gave it class-leading fingerprint scanning technology that set a new standard in the smartphone market. Every single handset on the planet over a certain price point has a fingerprint sensor now. Once again, Apple wasn’t the first but it was clearly the best, and every other company jumped on the bandwagon.

Touch ID is now on every iPhone, iPad, and even the company’s newest MacBook Pro computers. It’s everywhere. It’s also lightning fast and extremely secure. Long story short, the only one way Apple is going to ditch it on the iPhone 8 unless it ran into serious manufacturing issues: If the company has a solution that’s even better.

Done well, 3D facial recognition could absolutely be a better solution. This wouldn’t be an iris scanning feature that would require the user to hold the phone directly in front of his or her face with eyes positioned inside circles. Apple’s facial recognition would have to work just as fast as an iris scanner, but it would function at angles as well. A solution like this would absolutely be better than Touch ID as it exists now.

Think about it. Raise to wake (and the new tap to wake feature) would also wake the iPhone 8’s front-facing camera. As you lift the handset from your pocket, bag, or desk, the camera would see your face and unlock the phone before it even gets to a position where you would begin using it.

The user experience would be fantastic — the iPhone 8 would be unlocked securely and passively, so no user action would be needed at all. Then you would just press the virtual home button to go to the home screen or approve an Apple Pay transaction, no muss, no fuss. In the case of apps like banking apps that are secured with Touch ID, they would open instantly using “Face ID.”

This is exactly the type of elegant solution Apple would cook up for the iPhone 8. It would unquestionably be better and faster than Touch ID, and it would eventually make its way to other Apple products in the same way that Touch ID debuted on the iPhone 5s before expanding throughout Apple’s lineup.

The moral of the story is this: don’t panic just yet about the prospect of losing Touch ID on the iPhone 8. If the feature is omitted from Apple’s upcoming new flagship phone, it’ll end up being a good thing.

Dollars and Sense is a recurring column by BGR Executive Editor Zach Epstein. It offers insights on subtle changes in and around consumer electronics with the potential to have a broad impact on companies that drive the industry. Contact the author at z@bgr.com.

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