Analyst rumor: iPhone 8 ‘function area’ to replace home button

While we’re still months away from finding out exactly what’s what with any new iPhone, the rumor mill is already running at full tilt. Following up on earlier reports of a 5.8-inch edgeless OLED screened device arriving as the “iPhone 8,” well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is telling investors more about what its home button-less front screen could be like.

As explained by AppleInsider and 9to5Mac, the analyst notes that this presumed OLED iPhone with its $ 1,000+ pricetag will be similar in size to the current 4.7-inch iPhone. However, instead of the home button, it will include a “function area” that can also display controls for video or games.

That would keep it matched in style with the recently-released MacBook Pros and their OLED TouchBar, and, the analyst says, reduce the screen size used for everything else to about 5.15-inches. Last year the New York Times reported that the next iPhone would ditch the home button for virtual buttons built into the screen, and this rumor explains how all that could work. Losing the home button could indicate a lack of TouchID, which could be replaced by a fingerprint reader embedded in the display itself, or other biometric technology like face recognition.

Source: Apple Insider, 9to5Mac

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Apple will replace a lost AirPod for $69

Following a slightly delay, Apple’s wireless AirPods are ready to order. They’re small and sleek, but the lack of cords has put a nagging thought in the back of my mind: I am guaranteed to lose one, if not both within a few weeks. If you’re equally forgetful, or happen to commute in jam-packed subway carriages, you’ll be happy to hear that Apple will replace a single AirPod for $ 69 (£65). Given a fresh pair costs $ 159 (£159), that seems like a reasonable fee. Similarly, a new AirPod charging case will set you back $ 69 (£65), for the inevitable “I threw it out thinking it was floss” stories.

To Apple’s credit, your music will stop as soon as one AirPod leaves your earhole. It serves two purposes: so you don’t have to press pause when someone starts talking to you, and to give you a heads-up whenever one AirPod drops out of your ear. If you’re somewhere busy, like a crowded train platform, that immediate notification could be vital to retrieving it. Otherwise, the allure of Apple’s AirPods is a tangle-free lifestyle, convenient pairing and charging. It’s doubly useful if you have the iPhone 7 with its non-existent 3.55mm jack. (Yeah, I’m still annoyed about it.)

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Apple (US), (UK)

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Our fingerprints, eyes and faces will replace passwords

Passwords are a pain in the ass. They’re either easy to crack or hard to remember, and when breaches occur you have to come up with a whole new one. So people are trying to do away with passwords altogether, and so far, fingerprint scanners are doing the job nicely.

Still, fingerprints alone are not enough. Online security has become increasingly important, forcing service providers to come up with better measures such as two-factor authentication to defend user information. Companies are turning to other parts of our bodies to find biometric complements that are up to the task, and our faces and eyes are at the top of the list. Although facial and eye-based recognition appear gimmicky for now (the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner, anyone?), they may soon become as prevalent and popular as fingerprint scanners. That pairing could eradicate passwords and clunky text-message two-factor verification altogether, making it a completely biometric process.

Before you brush the notion aside, think about the history of fingerprint scanners on smartphones. After Apple first put Touch ID on the iPhone 5s in 2013, people pointed out that it didn’t work very well and that it wasn’t secure. But Apple soldiered on, improving the hardware and implementing more useful features. Since then, many other tech giants have followed suit. Today, they’re basically a given feature on flagship Samsung, Nexus (or Pixel), LG and HTC phones, and are even spreading to more affordable handsets such as the $ 99 ZMax Pro, the $ 200 Huawei Honor 5X, the $ 400 OnePlus 3 and the $ 400 ZTE Axon 7. We can expect to see them everywhere soon, said Sayeed Choudhury, Qualcomm’s senior director of product management.

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Despite the proliferation of fingerprint sensors, companies continue to chase convenience and novelty by introducing new biometric methods of logging in. We started seeing facial recognition as a method of identification when Google first revealed Face Unlock on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Years later, eye-print authentication started popping up on phones such as the ZTE Grand S3 and the Alcatel Idol 3. The latter two used a retinal scan to match the user by looking at the full eye and veins.

The good thing about this method, said Choudhury, was that it didn’t require additional hardware — you could just use the selfie camera. The challenge in retinal scanning is in its computation and algorithms, which Choudhury said is “very heavyweight” and “almost always uses the GPU in addition to the CPU.” This means it takes longer to detect and recognize your prints. Indeed, in my experience reviewing the Eyeverify system on ZTE and Eye-D on the Alcatel Idol 3, snapping a pic of my eyes to unlock the phones was always excruciatingly slow.

In contrast, iris scanning, which was one of the highlights of the Galaxy Note 7 when it launched (and before all that exploding hoopla), uses more compact algorithms, said Choudhury. That means faster detection and a shorter wait time. Plus, iris scanning has been around for a long time. People have been using it to get into secure labs, buildings and even through airport security (Global Entry), so the technology is pretty mature. It’s also more secure than fingerprints. According to Choudhury, “Iris-recognition technologies found in devices today identify three to five times more ‘feature markers’ to classify a specific iris versus what today’s fingerprint technologies can do.” The bad news with iris scanning, though, is it requires an infrared (IR) camera, which isn’t on many phones. But Samsung isn’t alone in looking to implement it — other brands will likely follow suit.

One of the biggest forces pushing the move toward eye-based authentication is the payments industry, said Choudhury. “What we’re seeing, driven by the mobile payments industry, is that both iris and retina biometrics are going to be incorporated in many more devices,” he said. Mobile payments are a “killer-use case,” according to him, and it certainly has a history of forcing even the most stubborn companies to adopt new technologies. The most obvious example of this would be Apple finally incorporating NFC into the iPhone 6 to enable its payment system, after years of resisting the tech that’s proliferated in Android phones.

Payments giant Mastercard is one of the proponents of the biometric security bandwagon, which encompasses fingerprints, eyes and faces. “We want to remove passwords,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of global enterprise risk and security at Mastercard. “Passwords are a big problem for people — they keep forgetting it or they use passwords which are very simple and dumb,” said Bhalla.

The company has been researching biometric-authentication methods using facial recognition, eye-based tech, fingerprints, heartbeats and voice, because these are unique to the user and don’t require memorizing or guesswork. It found fingerprints and face detection to be the most easily scalable. “We feel it’s reached a stage where it can become mainstream — it’s on devices, and consumers understand it,” said Bhalla.

Mastercard recently launched its “selfie pay” authentication method in Europe via its Identity Check Mobile app. The feature lets you authorize transactions by taking a portrait of yourself and blinking to prove it’s you and not a picture some wannabe hacker printed.

While it may sound cheesy to hold up your phone and pose for a picture each time you want to buy something, the company claims it is well-received. According to research from its 2015 trials, 90 percent of respondents found the Identity Check app more convenient than what they had been using. Seventy-one percent rated facial recognition as “highly convenient,” while 93 percent rated fingerprint recognition the same.

The popularity, prevalence and convenience of fingerprint scanning means it is here to stay, and by no means are face- and eye-recognition meant to replace it. Both Choudhury and Bhalla see the newer method as a complement to fingerprints, providing a more convenient second-factor authentication as opposed to entering a text code sent to your phone. While the tech we have right now may not be fast or secure enough to be truly convenient and helpful, we’re getting close. Using the adoption of fingerprint scanners as a model, Choudhury estimated that we are five years away from iris scanners and face detection becoming just as widespread. Until then, we’ll have to deal with changing our crappy passwords every so often and hope we don’t forget them.

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This phone-powered vision test can replace your eye doctor

There are dozens of inexpensive ways to buy glasses online today, but getting a new eyeglass prescription is as old-school as ever: Book an appointment with your eye doctor, spend more time than you expect in the waiting room and go through a full exam. Even if you’re lucky enough to book through Zocdoc, it’s still a long process. Smart Vision Labs hopes to make it easier to get a new glasses prescription with the SVOne Enterprise, a smartphone-powered self-guided vision test that’s launching in some New York City glasses stores today.

It may not have the catchiest name, but the SVOne Enterprise could be a huge boon for the vision impaired. It’s based on the same autorefraction technology as the company’s first product, the handheld SVOne Pro, which lets doctors perform eye exams just about anywhere. In a nutshell, the tech involves bouncing a laser off of your retina, which is then measured by the device. The new product adds a telemedicine element: After going through the vision test, the results are sent to a remote eye doctor who approves the final prescription. You can then download the prescription at any time and take it to the glasses retailer of your choice.

The SVOne Enterprise looks like an iPhone with a specialized eyepiece on top of a tripod. It’s more functional than attractive, the sort of thing an optical store can leave in a corner until it needs to test a customer. Since only a few stores can afford to have actual doctors on staff, most are left pointing customers elsewhere to get new prescriptions. Smart Vision Labs’ device allows stores to keep those customers in-house, so they’ll be more likely to buy a pair of glasses. The company chargers its partners $ 40 a test, but it’s up to the individual stores to determine pricing for shoppers.

Founder Yaopeng Zhou says he was inspired to create the SVOne Enterprise after realizing there are almost 200 million people in America who need glasses, but only 106 million eye exams take place every year. He also points out there’s only one eye doctor for every 5,000 people in the US. There’s a definite need for a faster way to perform vision tests.

To be clear, the SVOne Enterprise isn’t a completely self-service product. You’ll still need a bit of help to step through the exam, though it’s still far less involved than going to the doctor. To start, I answered a few questions on the SVOne Enterprise’s iPhone screen about my age and pre-existing eye conditions. If I had any major eye problems, the app would direct me to take a full exam from a doctor.

After that, Yaopeng had me read from a fairly standard vision chart on the SVOne Enterprise’s iPhone screen using my glasses. I then placed my right eye in the device’s eyepiece and stared at a red laser as it took three photos. I repeated the same process with my left eye, but it took a few tries and a move to a darkened room for it to make a successful measurement. (Yaopeng noted that my pupils were smaller than most, so we had to dilate them a bit by moving to a dark environment.)

A day after the exam, I received a link to an official prescription from one of the company’s contracted doctors. Surprisingly, they didn’t make any changes to my current prescription, which is hopefully a sign that my terrible vision is stabilizing a bit. I can now take that prescription to an online eyeglass outfit like Warby Parker, or a local store in my neighborhood, to get a new pair of frames. (If you’ve only ever gotten new glasses directly from your doctor, it’s definitely worth exploring the wealth of new options out there.)

Smart Vision Labs isn’t the first company to pursue phone-powered eye exams. Blink claimed it would send someone to your home for an exam (it hasn’t launched yet). And Peek has been trying to bring vision tests to the developing world for years. But the SVOne Enterprise is the first product I’ve seen that delivers a valid prescription just as accurate as my current one.

Looking ahead, Yaopeng says the company is attempting to bring the SVOne Enterprise to more markets in the US. Smart Vision Labs’ handheld product is already available in 23 countries. Though it’s only sold around 500 units of that device, they’ve already completed more than 40,000 refraction eye tests over the past few years.

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