Apple’s Face ID feature is set to enjoy a two year head start as other manufacturers struggle to implement the technology in their own devices. Major parts producers are saying that other companies are expected to wait until at least 2019 before being able to duplicate the feature.
Reuters reports that there is a manufacturing bottleneck in vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, or VCSELs; a necessary component of facial recognition cameras.
Apple is enjoying its lead in the 3D sensing technology after securing a $390 million deal with VCSEL supplier, Finisar last December. Other VCSEL suppliers are struggling to ramp up manufacturing capability to meet the demand for the technology. According to senior director of investor relations at Viavi Solutions Inc states that mass adoption of the 3D sensing technology might not happen until next year.
Apple’s closest competitor, Samsung, manages to improvise with the shortcomings. It designed a facial recognition system using only the standard camera sensor; allowing for somewhat similar features as that found on the iPhone X.
Not all is lost for other Android manufacturers. Production of VCSELs are expected to ramp up this year, with the emitters being widely available in 2019. An Austrian firm, ams, is already claiming that it will be supplying a major smartphone producer.
If anything, Apple’s head start isn’t one of technological superiority. Rather it is simply buying up all the available components; leaving other companies without the parts needed to build comparable facial recognition technology. But then again, supply chain economics have long been one of Cupertino’s strengths.