iPhone 8 face unlock confirmation found in HomePod firmware

JC Torres - Jul 31, 2017, 2:34 am CDT
iPhone 8 face unlock confirmation found in HomePod firmware

Sometimes you find the biggest clues in the strangest of places. In this case, one of the iPhone 8’s most debated feature has been more or less confirmed in a device far removed from an iPhone: a smart speaker. That is exactly the little piece of treasure that developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered when digging through the Apple HomePod’s firmware, which Apple itself accidentally leaked. But while it does seem to answer one question, it still leaves plenty of room for other questions.

The iPhone 8 will have biometric-based face detection. Or at least Apple is preparing for it. Deep in the HomePod’s firmware is for “BKFaceDetect” hooks, “BK” standing for Apple’s BiometricKit, the same framework used by TouchID. The code also refers to a mysterious “PearlID” and a device named “D22”. D22 is commonly believed as the codename for the iPhone 8, leading to speculation that “PearlID” is the hopefully temporary codename for a “Face ID” feature.

The code also shows references to infrared functionality, again confirming the kind of hardware that Apple is planning to use for face authentication. Whether that refers to multiple infrared sensors capable of 3D mapping or just one sensor isn’t yet clear. The former would give it capabilities closer to a Microsoft Kinect, whose sensor developer was recently acquired by Apple.

And although not related to code, the firmware also showed an image of what is supposedly a placeholder image for the iPhone 8. While it’s a simple graphic, it does confirm the general design of the face of the iPhone 8, with very thin bezels and a cutout at the top.

Unfortunately, the HomePod firmware didn’t hold any clues into one of the biggest remaining question of all: will there be Touch ID in the iPhone 8. BiometricKit does seem to operate on the presumption that either Touch ID or “Pearl ID” will be present, but it also leaves the door open for both to be in a single device.

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