Apple came out with a forceful denial on Wednesday to a report that it was compromising on the quality of new facial recognition technology in its upcoming iPhone X. The unusual public statement from Apple, which usually lets anonymously sourced reporting pass without comment, came just days before the premium model goes up for pre-order.
At $999, the new iPhone X carries the highest price tag of any device in Apple’s 10-year history of making smartphones. Among other unique and highly touted features, the iPhone X model dispenses with Apple’s fingerprint recognition system for unlocking the phone in favor of a cutting-edge infrared facial recognition scanner. But with manufacturing delays hitting supplies of the new phone, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Apple had told its suppliers to lower their quality standards for the facial recognition system, dubbed Face ID. The report cited “people familiar with the situation.”
On Wednesday, Apple (AAPL) blasted the report. “The quality and accuracy of Face ID haven’t changed,” the company said in a statement. “It continues to be 1 in a million probability of a random person unlocking your iPhone with Face ID. Bloomberg’s claim that Apple has reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication.”
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The new system works by using an infrared projector to locate a user’s face, sending tiny dots out to map 30,000 locations on the face, and then determining whether the resulting shape matches the face on record as the phone’s owner. But several reports have indicated that Apple suppliers were having difficulty getting the sensors to work as advertised in all cases.
Apple has a lot riding on the success of the iPhone X. The company decided this year for the first time to create three new models of iPhones. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which went on sale last month, look much like last year’s iPhone 7, though with faster processors and better cameras. But sales of the iPhone 8 models has been slower than expected, with analysts saying many customers are holding out for the iPhone X, which goes up for pre-order on Friday and then on sale on November 3.
Apple’s stock price initially fell 2% on the Bloomberg report, but bounced back after the denial was made public. The shares were down just 0.5% in afternoon trading on Wednesday.