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Apple is having trouble getting the iPhone 8’s signature feature to actually work

Updated Apr 18th, 2017 7:39AM EDT
iPhone 8 Release Date Delay

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The iPhone 8’s signature design feature will be a bezeless display extending from edge to edge. That means there’s no room for a physical home button on the device, so Apple has to “kill” it. However, more reports indicate the iPhone maker may not be able to do so this year.

Technically, Apple already killed the physical home button with the iPhone 7 series. These devices do not have a home button that you can actually press. Furthermore, the iPhone 6s introduced the 3D Touch screen that theoretically allows Apple to relegate several home button functions to any region of the display.

There’s one critical feature of the home button that needs to be preserved as well, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor required for unlocking the phone, signing into apps and services, and using Apple Pay. Touch ID isn’t something Apple can easily ditch, even if there are rumors that 3D facial recognition cameras will replace the fingerprint sensor.

Apple wants to place the fingerprint sensor under the display, but that technology doesn’t appear to be ready yet. According to a Sunday research note from Pacific Crest Securities, Apple has issues with the new sensor, which could either delay the iPhone 8’s launch or force Apple to place it on the back of the handset.

“The anticipated move to a full-screen OLED panel in the coming iPhone 8/X eliminates the physical home button, which necessitates a move to a virtual home button and an optical fingerprint sensing solution to read fingerprints through the OLED panel,” the research note reads, according to Investors .

“At this point, we do not believe Apple’s optical fingerprint module provider has firm orders for production, which suggests Apple does not have functionality of the optical fingerprint sensor ready. Additionally, we believe Apple has evaluated Synaptic’s optical fingerprint solution, but that it has not been qualified.”

Synaptics has been working on a similar fingerprint solution for Samsung’s Galaxy S8 but failed to deliver it on time for the phone’s launch.

“Likely options for Apple include a delay of production or elimination of fingerprint sensing on the OLED iPhone,” the report also says, according to MacRumors.

“We believe Apple continues to work on solving its optical fingerprint issues. If it’s able to solve the problems in the next month or so, it would likely place volume orders at that point. This would likely lead to a delay of the OLED iPhone launch, but we would not expect it to meaningfully affect volume for the cycle. If it’s not able to fix the problems in that time frame, Apple may be forced to eliminate fingerprint sensing from the OLED iPhone altogether.

Similar reports from other analysts offered the same type of warnings, suggesting that Apple might be forced to delay the iPhone 8’s in-store launch this year to deal with Touch ID-related supply issues.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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