Bloomberg has reported that Apple recently allowed its suppliers to reduce the accuracy of the iPhone X’s facial recognition to speed up production.
The reasoning behind the quiet instruction to downgrade accuracy to suppliers was fears that Apple Inc wouldn’t have enough iPhone Xs in time for the holidays.
Foxconn (the tech group in china who make the phones) pulled 200 workers off the iPhone X production line after Apple struggled to get components for the phone and fewer people required to put it together.
But the problem according to Bloomberg is not the suppliers but Apple’s unrealistic expectation of its suppliers and underestimating the complexity of fragile components.
The 3-D sensor has three key elements: a dot projector, flood illuminator and infrared camera. The flood illuminator beams infrared light, which the camera uses to establish the presence of a face. The projector then flashes 30,000 dots onto the face which the phone uses to decide whether to unlock the home screen. The system uses a two-stage process because the dot projector makes big computational demands and would rapidly drain the battery if activated as frequently as the flood illuminator.
The dot projector is at the heart of Apple’s production problems. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was having trouble producing the modules that combine to make the dot projector, causing shortages.
Apple’s timeframe to suppliers of 2years lead time to failed to account for this and its aggressive stance may just be the company’s downfall.
The result is the Apple iPhone X is now completely dependant on Samsung’s technology for the OLED components (which is Apple’s only supplier), while the dot projector (perfected by LG and Sharp both companies who have admitted the frailty of the components making the phones extremely complex)
For months, Apple investors have fretted that a shortage of iPhone Xs would send consumers into the arms of rival smartphone makers such as Samsung and Huawei and should the downgrade of its face ID be less than what customers are expecting they may find that its not the lack of phones that will send customers to their rivals but their willingness to cut corners on a high end phone.