Last year when the first iPhone 14 rumors started to surface — even as early as the day before the launch of the iPhone 13 range — a few of smartphone-centric folks at Tom's Guide bemoaned that all iPhone 14 models could come without Touch ID. I was one such dissenting voice.
This was at a time when mask wearing was still prevalent in U.S. and U.K. society; sure, the coronavirus pandemic had slowed down towards the end of 2021, but it was (and is) far from over. This meant there was still a lot of mask wearing going on in public areas, and it was enforced on the London Underground.
Since I’d made the move over from Android to iPhone in December 2021, I found that the lack of a fingerprint sensor — capacitive, optical, ultrasonic or otherwise — was a pain when it came to making things like contactless payments while wearing a mask.
Each time I had to tap my iPhone 13 Pro to beep in and out of the Underground's gates, I had to pause and tap in my lock screen PIN. This went from being a minor inconvenience to deeply frustrating at times; to the extent I used to use my Google Pixel 6 Pro as my payments phone.
So understandably, the building rumors that Touch ID isn’t going to come to the iPhone 14 range started to look like a disappointment. It even has Tom’s Guide Content Director Mark Spoonauer declare the “iPhone 14 will be pointless.”
But then along came iOS 15.4. Bringing with it the ability for Face ID to work with face masks. I don’t know how Apple pulled it off (something about unique features around the eye area), but it works superbly.
I can’t think of any real times when Face ID struggled to recognize my face when I’ve been wearing a mask — this isn’t so common any more with the pandemic seemingly easing off, but some mask wearing is still enforced in the U.K. in places like hospitals.
So I need to cut off a slice of humble pie and admit that my initial reticence towards a next-gen iPhone with no Touch ID may was premature.
But for others interested in Touch ID for the iPhone 14, well, it really doesn't look like it’s going to happen. The latest rumors have pretty much shot down the idea of an under-display or side-mounted Touch ID for the iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro.
Is that a big deal? I don’t think so. Not only is Face ID seemingly better than ever, but I’ve now come round to the thinking that by not adding in a Touch ID sensor to the iPhone 14 models, Apple could save on space and perhaps use its advancements in tech and component packaging to give the iPhone 14 a bigger battery or a slightly slimmer design; after all, the iPhone 13 is already a little heavier than the iPhone 12. And no Touch ID essentially means one less thing to fail for a next-gen iPhone as it gets older.
Instead of this extra layer of biometric security, I’d rather Apple focused on getting the most out of its iPhone 14 cameras, especially given the standard iPhone 14 and so-called iPhone 14 Max aren’t set to get any major camera upgrades. Perhaps more could be done on the software side or image signal processing pipeline to deliver improved photos and video without needing new hardware.
And on the iPhone 14 Pro, which is tipped to get a 48-megapixel main camera and new A16 chip, I hope Apple throws a lot of time into putting that extra sensor resolution and power to good use in delivering photos and videos that utterly blow away the best Android phones. While I feel iPhones are still the leaders in smartphone video, they don’t always have the edge in still photography. So I’d like to see Apple make a lead there and really set a new standard for others to follow.
So in conclusion, while I don’t like admitting I’m wrong, I think I might have to swallow my pride and admit that a Touch ID-less iPhone 14 now makes a lot of sense, And come the Apple event in September, I’m keen to see what the next iPhone brings to the smartphone arena.