Rumor has it that the upcoming iPhone 8 will support facial recognition, which means it’ll have hardware and software that can tell one person from another when you’re looking at the phone. It won’t be the first smartphone with facial identification features, but it’ll be the first from Apple.
And it’s starting to look like the phone may be able to do more than identify you by your face. It may also be able to tell whether you’re looking at the screen or not.
Guilherme Rambo has been sifting through the iOS code Apple (accidentally?) released for the HomePod smart speaker recently, and he found an indication that the iPhone 8 will mute audio notifications when you’re looking at the screen.
In other words, if you can see a visual notification, there’s clearly no reason for your phone to beep to get your attention.
But this opens the possibility that the iPhone 8 could do other things with face/gaze detection. For instance, maybe the screen could stay awake indefinitely when you’re looking at the phone, and only dim when you look away.
Theoretically, Apple could use this sort of technology to analyze your level of engagement with apps, videos, or websites. Knowing how long you look at the screen while waiting for a YouTube preroll ad to finish would certainly be valuable information for advertisers. But I suspect Apple won’t go down this path… at least not for now. The company has distinguished itself from competitors in recent years by protective users’ privacy. While Google makes most of its money from advertising, Apple’s profits are driven by hardware sales (and to a lesser degree, services).
Anyway, Apple’s facial recognition software had better be good: leaked pictures of the upcoming iPhone 8 show a phone with no fingerprint sensor, and word on the street is that the Face ID (known internally as Pearl ID) will replace Touch ID on the phone. Need to unlock your phone in the dark? In addition to dual front-facing cameras, the phone’s expected to have an infrared sensor.