Android smartphone makers are clamouring to copy Apple and build face-scanning tech into their device after the unveiling of the high-end iPhone X in September.
At least, that’s according to a research note from Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-regarded analyst from KGI Securities.
He reports that KGI Securities’ research has found that for Android handset firms, 3D sensing has “replaced under-display optical fingerprint recognition as the latest key investment theme.”
Of course, Apple wasn’t the first tech company to build some kind of facial recognition tech into its phones. Samsung has implemented it in some devices for years (although it can be fooled with a photo).
But according to Ming-Chi Kuo’s sources, there has been a flurry of interest specifically in 3D sensing – the kind the iPhone X uses – in the month since the high-end, tenth anniversary iPhone was announced.
There has been a threefold jump in interest
“Android brand vendors increasingly engaged in 3D sensing since iPhone X announcement; enquiries about solutions from Android brand vendors have roughly tripled, or more,” the analyst wrote.
“We’ve seen a substantial pick up of interest and involvement among top Android brand vendors in 3D sensing since iPhone X was unveiled.”
There is, Ming-Chi Kuo reports, a financial incentive for this change in direction. The previous focus – embedding fingerprint scanners beneath the screen – was fundamentally an incremental upgrade on what was previously available.
3D sensing meanwhile, is “a revolutionary user experience & warrants a premium on gross margin. 3D sensing not only enables facial recognition in security applications and allows users to create fun expressions like Apple’s (US) Animoji, on a more important level, it is a key factor in the development of AR.”
In other words, fingerprint scanners are boring now. Apple’s rivals have seen what 3D sensing can do, and they want a piece of the action.
Apple doesn’t care if it’s first or not
Apple frequently isn’t at the cutting edge of technological innovation. The iPhone wasn’t the first touchscreen smartphone; the Apple Watch wasn’t the first smartwatch.
But the Californian tech giant wields enormous influence, and when it does decide to focus on something, the rest of the industry takes note – and often copies.
Take its controversial decision to ditch the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in 2016 in favour of wireless headphones.
There was outrage from some quarters about the move, and Google even poked fun at Apple for doing so when it announced its Pixel smartphone, complete with headphone jack. But just a year later, when Google unveiled the Pixel 2, it had quietly killed off its headphone jack.
The iPhone X won’t hit shop shelves until November, and Android companies are already following its lead.