Details discovered by developers in firmware for Apple’s HomePod speaker show in-development iPhone with IR face unlocking and bezel-less design
The next version of Apple’s iPhone will have infrared-based facial recognition unlocking – eliminating need for a passcode or fingerprint – and will have an almost all-screen design on the front, say developers digging into the pre-release of firmware distributed by Apple.
The firmware for the upcoming HomePod smart speaker, which is due for release at the end of the year, was pushed out via Apple’s developer system last week. It was found to contain references to other devices in its code, including the next version of the iPhone. It is unclear whether the HomePod firmware was distributed intentionally for developers to start building systems to interact with the speaker ahead of release or leaked by accident by Apple.
The code references a device codenamed “D22”, which developers Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo say is the next big revision of the iPhone, which may or may not be called the “iPhone 8”, “iPhone X” or “iPhone 10” and is expected to be announced as soon as September but potentially not released until the end of the year or later.
The developers say that Apple’s code name for the face recognition feature is “Pearl ID” and that there are references to it throughout the HomePod firmware, which contains much of the next version of iOS 11 due to be released later this year.
Further probing of the firmware found an icon used to represent the D22 device, which shows a smartphone without Apple’s traditional home button and a screen that almost entirely fills the front of the device with only a cut out at the top for the front-facing camera, sensors and speaker.
Trying to pin down the precise features of the next iPhone has been difficult of late. We’re all expecting a standard “S” model iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that won’t be radically different from last year’s, but we’re also expecting a high-end model. It appears, based on a tweet from developer Steve Troughton-Smith, that at least one of those models will have face unlock. And the high-end model (alternately referred to as the “iPhone Pro,” “iPhone 8,” or even “iPhone X”) will have a bezel-less screen that wraps around the speaker and cameras at the top.
Troughton-Smith and other developers have been spending the past day examining the code inside the Apple HomePod, which pretty much contains most of the codebase for iPhones inside it. Apple accidentally pushed the firmware for the HomePod out yesterday, and a bunch of developers grabbed it. From that code, we’ve learned a bit about how the LED lights on the top may work, but it also is giving us an opportunity to learn about what might be coming to the next iPhones. To wit:
There are a bunch of lines of code for “BKFaceDetect” here, where the “BK” probably refers to “Biometric Kit.” Apple loves using the word “Kit” for its developer tools, you see. There’s also references to an infrared camera, which would be used to detect your face, even in the dark. Bloomberg reported that Apple would use an infrared camera for 3D face scanning earlier this month, but we don’t know whether it will come to all of upcoming iPhones.