Maybe Apple Inc. Didn't Suffer a Touch ID Fail After All

Markets Motley Fool

Leading up to the launch of the new iPhones, there was plenty of chatter from the press and the analyst community about the difficulties Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) was facing in trying to integrate a fingerprint scanner underneath the display of the iPhone X.

Continue Reading Below

Just recently, a report from The Wall Street Journal said Apple "tried to embed the Touch ID function, or fingerprint scanner, in the new display" but ultimately gave up because integrating that capability "proved difficult."

Seemingly contradicting this report, as well as the slew of other reports from other credible sources, are comments from John Gruber, who runs the popular blog Daring Fireball, and Matthew Panzarino with TechCrunch.

Apple didn't bother to finish Touch ID development?

Gruber, in a Sept. 14 post, explained that early in the development of the iPhone X, Apple did toy around with trying to integrate Touch ID into the display "as a Plan B," but it "became convinced that Face ID was the way to go over a year ago."

"They stopped pursuing Touch ID under the display not because they couldn't do it, but because they decided they didn't need it," Gruber said, adding that Apple jettisoned this so-called Plan B "over a year ago."

Continue Reading Below

Panzarino, echoing Gruber's comments, said he's also "heard that Apple has not intended on including any Touch ID-based authentication in the iPhone X for a very long time."

I'm inclined to believe Gruber and Panzarino, given how well connected they both are, over the analysts who probably don't have the kinds of direct connections within Apple that those two do.

Probably a smart bet for Apple

Though I was excited by the idea of having Touch ID embedded in the display ahead of the iPhone X announcement and was bummed out when it became clear that it wouldn't be included in the device, I was very impressed with Apple's Face ID demonstrations at its Sept. 12 product launch event.

The technology seems to work well, and it's surprisingly easy to see Face ID becoming the "gold standard" in mobile-device biometric authentication, to borrow Phil Schiller's description of Touch ID during the Sept. 12 event. 

What I think could be an even bigger deal for Apple is that integrating this technology -- which requires complex 3D sensing capabilities, as well as some serious work on the software side of things -- appears a lot more difficult and expensive than integrating Touch ID, or a fingerprint scanner in general.

It was easy for Apple's competition to start integrating fingerprint scanners into their devices -- even into mid-range and eventually low-end devices, to boot -- eroding the effectiveness of Touch ID as a competitive advantage.

I think it'll be much harder for Apple's competitors to catch up with what Apple is doing with Face ID. Even if Apple's competitors figure out the technology, I can't see it being cost-effective enough to fit comfortably within the bill of materials of low-end and mid-range smartphones anytime soon.

Well played, Apple.  

10 stocks we like better than Apple
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Apple wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of September 5, 2017

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.