iPhone 8 Design: New Home Button / Touch ID Location

Sonny Dickson tweeted a photo of what looks like a schematic of the new iPhone, which I will refer to as iPhone 8, specifically the largest most premium 5.8-inch iPhone 8, in this article. The supposed iPhone 8 schematic shows a couple of different design elements from iPhone 7s.

NEW DESIGN

There are two cutouts that are of particular interest. One is related to the camera: the two-lens cutout and LED flash are aligned vertically. Not such a big deal in my opinion, but I wonder if there are any advantages of positioning the two lenses vertically when it comes to machine learning-based bokeh generation.

The other cutout that peaks my interest is round, and underneath the Apple logo. That round cutout seems to be located right in the middle, height wise and width wise, of the back of iPhone 8. If the schematic is real, and that’s a big if, and if that cutout is for the home button / Touch ID, Apple is embarking on a wholely new home button / Touch ID user experience significantly different from all previous generations of iPhones.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing things differently, as long as the user experience doesn’t suffer too much for too long. And you don’t want to change too many things all at once. Regarding iPhone users many of us are still struggling to get used to not having a 3.5-mm audio jack. We get dongles; we get Bluetooth earphones, but none are as simple as connecting a set of headphones we already have. We all get used to new things but when we are used to doing something a certain way the new can get frustrating because it requires change in our thoughts and actions, both of which can take considerable time and effort. For some of us change comes easy, but for others change can be frustrating.

 

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Our productivity takes a dive in the short term too, but if the new thing is designed better than the old thing productivity should eventually improve to a level unreachable before the new thing. Maybe the new home button location on the back is such a new thing. Maybe not. But ergonomically it makes sense to me: when we hold our smartphones our index fingers whether left or right naturally and automatically nestles into about where the cutout is shown in the schematic.

Or perhaps Apple is separating the home button and Touch ID. Keep the home button in the front and move Touch ID to the back. The home button can be both touch and force sensitive while Touch ID simply reads fingerprints. There are times when I want to press only the home button without activating Touch ID. This need is somewhat mitigated by a new feature that automatically turns on the display when iPhone thinks I want to take a look at the screen; it’s a nice feature borrowed from Apple Watch. Separating Touch ID from the home button could be one explanation for the rear circular cutout. But the only sure thing is that we will have to wait and see.

OLED

Let’s assume Apple is transitioning away from IPS LCDs to OLED displays on its next iPhones. It might seem Apple doesn’t have a lot of experience with integrating OLED displays into devices, but that’s not completely the case. Apple Watch uses an OLED display and so does the 2016 TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pro. Granted they are not smartphone OLED displays. So Apple has some experience, but not as much as say Samsung. Another area where Apple doesn’t have a lot of experience is working with Samsung’s display team in developing new technology and solutions. When it comes to displays Apple has worked mostly with LG Display to push the envelope further. Again, assuming Apple is going OLED in the next iPhone or one of the next iPhones, the question then becomes: Is Apple having difficulties integrating fingerprint sensing and force sensing into/onto the OLED display? Looks like it.

Apple has patents when it comes to this. Back in October of 2016, AppleInsider reported Apple was awarded a patent that allows fingerprint sensing through displays: US Patent No. 9,460,332. The patent if successfully implemented can replace the physical home button with a virtual one. Perhaps Apple is experiencing technical challenges with integrating a virtual Touch ID that also senses force. Earlier in 2016 Apple was also granted US Patent No. 20060007222 for an “integrated sensing display” that “includes display elements integrated with image sensing elements” (source: The Mac Observer via DISPLAYBLOG). But patents are one thing, building real products based on those patents is another.

On April 12th of this year, AppleInsider cited analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company stating potential yield issues for  iPhone 8’s “under-glass” fingerprint sensor solution by Apple’s in-house AuthenTec. Note: Melbourne, Florida-based AuthenTec was purchased by Apple in 2012 for US$356 million (source: Reuters). According to Arcuri Apple is unwilling to use a solution provided by a third party.

LG Innotek Under Cover Glass Fingerprint Sensor

LG Innotek Under Cover Glass Fingerprint Sensor

Apple’s AuthenTec isn’t the only company trying to develop fingerprint sensors that can work underneath the screen. LG Innotek announced in May 2016 that it developed a new fingerprint sensor that fits into a 0.01-inch (0.03 mm) space cut into the underside of a smartphone cover glass (source: The Korea Times via The Verge). A circular or rectangular fingerprint sensor button becomes unnecessary allowing for a more seamless design.

Synaptics also introduced its Natural ID FS9100 optical fingerprint sensors late last year. The FS9100 sensors can scan fingerprints through 1mm-thick cover glass. But neither solution is something Apple can use for its iPhone 8’s supposedly all-screen design.

According to The Korea Herald a South Korea-based biometric sensor company CrucialTec announced that it had patented a technology allowing the installation of a fingerprint sensor underneath a smartphone display panel:

Touch screens embedded with fingerprint sensors will allow users to authenticate their identity by simply touching the smartphone display.

This might be the solution Apple is seeking to mass manufacture, but Apple is unwilling to work with third parties for its under-the-screen Touch ID fingerprint reader; it is after all an extremely sensitive area of the iPhone.

NEW IS HARD

It takes guts, an unwillingness to accept failure, tremendous grit, etc. to do things no one has done before, even if it is merely integrating parts that already exist. The original iPhone was born through that process. I’m rooting for all the Apple engineers trying to make this happen. But even if they don’t succeed this time I’m certain a solution will be developed in the future.

As for the 5.8-inch iPhone 8 schematic with what looks like a home button cutout in the back, I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all if that means the OLED screen in the front is really seamless.

 

Google Seeks Strategic Investment & Relationship With LG Display To Secure OLED Smartphone Displays

Google Pixel

According to Korea-based ETNews (Korean), Mountain View, California-based Google has approached LG Display and offered a strategic investment of ₩1 trillion (around US$880 million) toward constructing a single line in a Gen. 6 small/medium flexible OLED fabrication plant. Instead of engaging LG Display toward establishing a long term supply agreement Google is seeking to establish a strategic relationship with one of the world’s largest supplier of displays.

Google is most likely experiencing difficulties acquiring OLED displays for its flagship Pixel smartphone. The world’s dominant supplier of smartphone OLED displays is Samsung, but Samsung will be using its own OLED supply for its newly launched Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. In addition there is speculation that Apple has secured most of the rest of Samsung’s OLED capacity for the next iPhone, which is expected to be named iPhone 8 or iPhone X. With Samsung’s OLED capacity earmarked for the Galaxy S8, S8+ and the next iPhone, Google needed to find another supplier and for the long term. The switch from LCD to OLED is underway and when Apple signals the smartphone world that OLED is the display technology of choice with its next iPhone all major brands will probably transition to OLED as well especially for their high-end smartphone offerings.

LG Display Paju Cluster

LG Display is currently building out two Gen. 6 flexible OLED fabrication plants: E5 in Gumi and Paju-based E6. E5 is expected to start production in Q3’17 while E6 is slated to come online in the second half of 2018. About $1.7 billion will be invested toward constructing the Gen 6 (1500x1850mm) flexible OLED fab; E6 is expected to have a monthly input capacity of 15,000 substrates. LG Display has invested $900 million to build its E5 fab, which is slated for production in 1H’17 with an initial monthly input capacity of 7,500 substrates or about 1.5 million 5.5-inch flexible OLED displays.

If Google and LG Display sign a strategic investment agreement flexible OLED displays earmarked for Google will probably be manufactured at LG Display’s E5 fab. Google’s investment would be coming at an important time for LG Display as the company builds its flexible OLED capacity for smartphones and other small/medium applications.

LG Display has been the main supplier of displays to Apple for many years. Apple’s iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, etc. are mostly supplied by LG Display due to the company’s well received and superior IPS LCD technology. But if Apple switches to OLED displays for the company’s iPhones it will be a major blow to LG Display. Samsung has been honing its smartphone OLED display technology for many years and it will likely be an uphill battle for LG Display to catch up. Although Apple might use LG Display as a second or third supplier of flexible OLED displays in the future, the probability that it will be sooner than later seems low. LG Display needs Google as much as Google needs LG Display.

Google is expected to announce a new Pixel smartphone this fall and to secure a reliable supply of flexible OLED displays via a strategic relationship with LG Display makes a lot of sense.

Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8 S8+ Front

[ Samsung ] The Samsung Galaxy S8 comes in two sizes: the regular version, simply called S8, sports a 5.8-inch OLED display while the larger S8+ is equipped with a slightly larger 6.2-inch screen. The main design difference between the S8 and the S7 is the thickness of the forehead and the lip: those are much thinner on the S8. And by incorporating a longer screen Samsung incorporated a larger display without making it wider. The overall look is quite nice, handsome even.

The iPhone 7 Plus is physically wider and taller but sports a smaller 5.5-inch LCD with a lot less pixels (1920×1080), thanks to the now relatively huge forehead, lip, and bezels on the sides. The Galaxy S8 is similar to the LG G6, which features a longer 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio 2880×1440 display, both Samsung’s S8 and S8+ have a tiny bit more stretch with a 2960×1440 pixel format and a 2.06:1 aspect ratio. The extra 80 pixels comes in handy as they are used for the Overview (Menu or Open Apps), Home, and Back soft buttons. The remaining 2880 pixels can be used to have two 1440×1440 square windows, while still having access to the soft navigation buttons.

The smaller S8 has a slightly higher 570 ppi resolution while the larger S8+ features a resolution of 529 ppi. These displays have a name, like they always do, and are called: Quad HD+ Super AMOLED. Meaningless, but I guess someone’s getting paid to have fun.

DisplayMate president Raymond Soneira took a battery of display-related tests and found impressive results for the Samsung S8 and S8+.

Color Gamut 100% DCI-P3, thanks to the new high saturation “Deep Red” OLED. The Galaxy S8 can display the latest 4K video content. The measured absolute color accuracy is 2.7 JNCD, which most likely is more accurate than the 4K UHD TV in our living room.

In the AMOLED Photo screen mode the Galaxy S8’s color gamut is 98% Adobe RGB, the color profile many photographers prefer due to the 17% larger color gamut than sRGB/Rec.709.

UHD Alliance Mobile HDR Premium

HDR First smartphone to be UHD Alliance certified for Mobile HDR Premium. This little bit here is a big deal. We watch a lot of view on our smartphones and the format has gone from SD, 720p HD, and 1080p HD. Some enjoy 4K. HDR or High Dynamic Range improves contrast and color making those pixels even more enjoyable to watch. But beware of brands touting HDR without OLED displays or without a LED-backlit LCDs with a bunch of LED zones; that type of HDR combines edge-lit backlights and “intelligent” software, which is not as good, and sometimes terrible, compared to the real hardware version.

Brightness 1000+ nits. This is bright, and will be good when we’re out in the sun and need to check our phones. For comparison the iPhone 7 has a peak brightness of 602 cd/m2 (same thing as nit), test results by Soneira. Brightness can significantly help us see out in the sun, but combine that with low screen reflectance and sunlight viewability becomes greatly improved. The S8’s screen reflectance is 4.5%; the iPhone 7 beats it by a hair with 4.4%. Combine brightness and screen reflectance and it’s a no brainer which smartphone is better out in the sun: the Galaxy S8/S8+.

Night Mode Blue Light Filter reduces the amount of blue light. On an RGB OLED night mode is effective, because the B (blue) OLED sub-pixel’s brightness can be turned down. Night Mode on an LCD is non-sense: all the light coming out of the backlight is generated by a blue LED with a yellow phosphor coating. The combination of the blue light coming out of the LED and the yellow phosphor results in white light. This white light however is not full-spectrum, meaning more saturated colors such as red are not rendered very well.

The reason why brands such as Samsung and Apple are coming out with Night Mode is to reduce the negative effect of blue light on our circadian rhythm, or our sleep cycles. Light, especially light in the blue wavelength region of the spectrum, is the most powerful signal for shifting or resetting our circadian rhythm. Low levels of melatonin is present during the day and those levels go up a few hours before going to sleep and peaks in the middle of the night. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the body that regulates sleep and wakefulness; in other words melatonin is what synchronizes our mind and body to our sleep cycles. Light suppresses melatonin. When we are watching our LCD or OLED TVs, working on our LCD monitors, watching movies on our tablets and/or smartphones we are letting a bunch of light especially blue light into our eyes that suppresses melatonin. Light in the evening causes a circadian delay and shifts our circadian rhythm to a later schedule. The more we look at our devices in the evening the harder it is for us to fall asleep when we want to. The best thing to do to reset our circadian rhythm to a healthy cycle is to put down our devices in the early evenings, but if that’s not possible having a display with an effective Night Mode is essential to prevent your circadian cycle to be shifted toward later in the evening. Finally and most importantly all of this is to sleep well, which is paramount if you want to feel good and be productive the next day.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Camera System

Camera Most of us have one camera: our smartphones. That’s why having a good camera on our smartphones has become so important. The S8 and S8+ has a fast ƒ/1.7 aperture lens, on both the back and front lenses. The iPhone 7’s lens is fast too, at ƒ/1.8 (the wide-angle lens), but falls a little behind. The faster the lens the more light it brings into the image sensor. In other words, we can take photos in darker settings without resorting to the flash.

The image sensor pixel size is important too. The larger the pixel size the more light it can absorb. The S8 and S8+ has a 1/2.55-inch image sensor, coupled with 12 megapixels, results in the pixel size of 1.4µm. According to Chipworks the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sport the same 12 megapixels but image sensor pixels are smaller: 1.22µm. We will be able to take photos in darker environments with the S8 than we can with the iPhone 7.

Selfies are huge. And Samsung made sure to update the front camera. The selfie camera sports an 8 megapixel image sensor, an improved face detection algorithm for faster and more accurate autofocus. The aperture is the same as the rear camera at ƒ/1.7, but with a slightly smaller pixel size of 1.22µm. The FOV (field of view) is a wide 80 degrees. Often we are taking selfies with a group of people and that’s when a wider FOV becomes important.

EverythingApplePro took the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7 out for some side-by-side comparison testing. The conclusion? The S8 had the upper edge, but it was quite close. Take a look for yourself.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ is without a doubt a much more beautiful smartphone than the LG G6 and especially the iPhone 7 Plus. How our smartphone looks is definitely important, but beauty isn’t everything. In terms of overall system speed, that’s a different story: check out EverythingApplePro’s “Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 Plus Speed Test”. iPhone 7 Plus wins, especially when already opened apps are relaunched. The multicore performance GeekBench benchmarks are similar between the two, but the single core performance of the iPhone 7 Plus is a little less than 2x that of the Galaxy S8.

Broadcom WiFi Chipset Vulnerability

Broadcom WiFi Chipset

[ Ars Technica ] Dan Goodin:

The vulnerability resides in a widely used Wi-Fi chipset manufactured by Broadcom and used in both iOS and Android devices. Apple patched the vulnerability with Monday’s release of iOS 10.3.1. “An attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip,” Apple’s accompanying advisory warned. In a highly detailed blog post published Tuesday, the Google Project Zero researcher who discovered the flaw said it allowed the execution of malicious code on a fully updated 6P “by Wi-Fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction.”

Gal Beniamini developed the exploit. Google is working on a patch, but the patch will take some time, and some smartphones — even fairly new ones — will at times never get patched. Allowing smartphone brands such as HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, etc. to push their own versions of Android becomes an Achilles’s Heel when a security patch needs to be distributed quickly and to all affected Android smartphones. As a precaution turn off WiFi connectivity in public locations; it may not be safe enough not to connect to unverified WiFi signals.

If you’re an iPhone (iPhone 5 and newer) user, patch your iPhone. iPhone 4s and older iPhone users: I’d recommend upgrading to an iPhone SE, the most affordable new iPhone Apple is currently selling.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony claims the Xperia XZ Premium is the world’s first smartphone with a 4K HDR display. 4K on a 5.5-inch display is technically impressive, but there might be a large negative impact on battery life. HDR? True HDR requires a display with an LED-backlit BLU (the more LEDs the better), or that it be an OLED display. Does the Xperia XZ Premium have an LED-backlit display? Most likely not; the BLU like almost all other non-OLED smartphones is edge-lit. Is it OLED? No. I might be wrong, but the HDR in this case is probably software based.

The overall industrial design of the Xperia XZ Premium is to my liking: a simple but consistent rectangular shape with diamond cut chamfered edges. The only area that needs a bit of improvement is the forehead and the lip; they are too thick. On the other hand I don’t like it too thin because in order to hold it firmly our fingers need some space. I would have forgiven the thick lip if physical or capacitive back, home, and apps buttons were located there, but no they are on the display taking up valuable pixel space. Oh, there is one more niggle: although the camera bump is not as large as the ones found on recent iPhones it’s still there. A camera-bump-less design is a more beautiful design.

Source: Sony

Japan Display Inc. Full Active Flex Bendable LCD

Japan Display Inc. Full Active Flex Bendable LCD

Japan Display Inc. or JDI is one of the few display manufacturers who supply smartphone displays to Apple. JDI also has the world’s largest production capacity of LTPS (Low Temperature Poly-Silicon) LCDs, an important fact considering LTPS is required if multitouch performance is important.

JDI announced a 5.5-inch LCD that’s bendable. JDI is calling the technology FULL ACTIVE FLEX. Bendable displays have up until now been limited to OLED technology. OLED is still more bendable than JDI’s bendable LCD, but JDI’s LCD bends enough that it could work as the curved display in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Bendable LCDs have the potential to be considerably more affordable than OLED because of the vast manufacturing infrastructure; the LCD industry will need to transition from glass substrates to plastic substrates for that to happen though.

Technical Specifications:

  • Display: 5.5-inch IPS-NEO LCD with Plastic Substrates
  • Pixel Format: 1920×1080 RGB
  • Resolution: 401 ppi
  • Driving Frequency: 60Hz, 30Hz, 15Hz
  • Brightness: 500 cd/m2 (typical)
  • Contrast Ratio: 1500:1 (typical)

LCD is liquid crystals sandwiched by two glass substrates. Although Corning has come out with bendable glass (Willow Glass), JDI replaced glass with plastic. Plastic bends, of course, but it is also more resistant to cracking and shattering than glass.

Apple, Samsung, and others who make smartphones use an extra layer of cover glass to protect the display underneath. The use of a cover glass like Corning’s Gorilla Glass protects the display and at times can add to a more seamless design, but it makes the smartphone thicker and more expensive. I like the idea of durable, bendable plastic LCDs not needing an extra layer of protection.

JDI plans to enter mass manufacturing in 2018.

Source: Japan Display Inc.