Apple’s upcoming release of iOS 12 will foreshadow the release of new iPad and iPhone X Plus models by adding horizontal Face ID support, according to separate claims from Japanese Apple blog Macotakara and Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. The small but important detail comes a month before Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference, where all of the company’s operating systems are generally updated.
Face ID debuted as a key feature of the iPhone X, relying on a depth-sensing front camera to recognize the user’s face for screen unlocking, Apple Pay purchasing, and other security features. By replacing Touch ID, Face ID enabled Apple to entirely eliminate the Home button found on every iPhone since the first model, enlarging the iPhone X’s screen in the process. But unlike Touch ID, which worked with fingers on any angle, Face ID currently only works when the phone is held upright with its front-facing camera above the screen.
According to Gurman, the addition of horizontal Face ID to iOS 12 is “for the iPads,” referring to updates expected later this year for the iPad Pro. Apple is thought to be preparing revised versions of the 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad models with Face ID rather than Touch ID hardware, enabling the company to either reduce the larger iPads’ footprints or increase their screen sizes. Since these iPads are frequently used in horizontal rather than vertical orientations, however, a Face ID system would need to work on both axes, instead of the vertical-only system currently found on the iPhone X.
The same improvement would also likely yield benefits for the larger version of the iPhone X that’s said to be in the works for later this year. Macotakara says that the Plus-sized model of the iPhone X will have roughly the same dimensions as the iPhone 8 Plus, but with a 6.5-inch display (versus earlier 5.5-inch displays) and a 0.2mm-thicker chassis. As the screen on this model would be less than 2 inches smaller on the diagonal than an iPad mini, it too might be used substantially in horizontal orientation, requiring a more flexible Face ID approach.
Macotakara also expects that the camera sensor and lens sizes will increase on both the iPhone X sequel and its Plus-sized version, each of which will apparently feature a dual-lens array, like the iPhone X. By comparison, the blog expects that a less expensive mid-range model will feature a single rear camera and a 6-inch LCD screen, slightly down from earlier 6.1-inch estimates. This model is likely to be known as the iPhone 9.
While Macotakara’s track record for Apple rumors is largely positive, Gurman’s future hardware and software predictions are almost always accurate, making enhanced Face ID support a near lock for iOS 12’s debut next month. Updated iPad and iPhone hardware will likely wait until September.