Apple and Samsung are constantly trying to outpace each other by adding novel features in their next-gen smartphones.

Samsung is reportedly looking to up the ante by including not only a fingerprint sensor and iris scanner in its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ but also a facial recognition technology. The triad of security features is expected to give the Samsung smartphone an edge over the iPhone 8, even though analysts are of the belief that the latter will rule the roost.

The latest buzz, however, suggests that Apple may have a few tricks up its sleeve as well. The company has filed for a patent which seeks to unlock an iPhone via facial recognition.

Apple has all but confirmed that it is eyeing the prospect of enabling alternate forms of biometric security for its new iPhone. However, whether this feature will make it to the iPhone 8 is not clear.

News of the iPhone 8 housing facial recognition tech is not new, as it was reported in February that the device may come with a 3D laser scanner for recognizing faces. It is also believed that this feature would replace the existing fingerprint scanner.

What Is The Patent All About?

The patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is called "Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition." It is noteworthy, that this patent is a continuation of one from Apple which goes by the same name and was granted to the company in 2016.

The patent was initially filed on Sept. 26, 2016, and the application lists Lihua Zhao and Richard Tsai as the inventors of the technology.

This is further related to another patent of the same name, which was applied for by Apple in 2015. The initial application for a patent for the technology was done back in 2012.

The latest version of the patent is a sleeker, updated one of the original application, along with some minor changes.

What Does The Patent Reveal?

The essence of the patent is that the iPhone will use the secondary, front-facing camera to recognize and detect a user's face. The device would only be unlocked if the face is authorized and is that of the user. If the phone is not used for a long time, then the camera will not be able to detect the user and the device will lock itself automatically.

Part 32 of the patent states that when the phone is locked, a part of the screen may have access to camera feed. The user can place their face within these limits to unlock the phone.

The reverse would also hold true, as the device may be unlocked by the phone moving physically. The camera would detect the authorized face and will unlock the phone. A PIN code or a fingerprint ID would not be necessary for such a scenario.

Although the newly-filed patent is an upgrade of the previous versions, it is interesting to see that the application lists the term "infrared sensor" in the "Claims" section of the patent. This has come up for the first time in the patent.

In the patent, the term "infrared sensor" could denote a motion sensing system, clubbed together with a tilt sensor. It is speculated, that this sensor would be able to detect changes in infrared light and, therefore, indicate motion when the iPhone is moved.

The use of the infrared sensor, however, is a departure from previous assertions which pointed to a laser scanner.

Interestingly, Apple is not the only company keen on incorporating facial recognition in its phones. As reported earlier, Samsung is looking to integrate this technology in its upcoming Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.

It will be interesting to see if Apple also offers facial recognition in tandem with fingerprint and iris scanning technology like its rival. Whether Apple will be able to give the Samsung technology for facial recognition a run for its money remains to be seen.

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