Apple Reportedly Planning To Release Budget iPhone Without Face ID For Chinese Market

The iPhone XS and XS Max are photographed side-by-side during the devices' September 12, 2018, announcement.
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A new report citing Chinese supply chain sources claims that Apple has plans to unveil a more affordable iPhone for China’s consumers, with the device notably featuring an under-display fingerprint sensor in lieu of the Face ID technology found on the company’s newer handsets.

On Monday, Chinese publication Global Times reported on the supposed new iPhone, describing the handset as a device “tailored” for Chinese consumers that could potentially help Apple regain momentum in the country’s smartphone market amid “mounting cost pressure” from the ongoing trade war between the United States and China. Citing supply chain sources who spoke to a separate, Chinese-language news outlet, Global Times added that the new iPhone will not include Face ID, as the facial recognition feature will be replaced by an under-display fingerprint reader in order to “save on costs.”

“A structured light laser emitter, the major component of Face ID, would cost several hundred yuan, said a Beijing-based representative who preferred to be anonymous,” the report continued. “He told the Global Times on Monday that ‘only Apple can afford it but that would also affect its sales.'”

The Global Times report also went deeper into the business implications of Apple’s purported move toward a more affordable iPhone for the Chinese market. According to the outlet, Apple has lost a number of consumers in China due to their preference for cheaper phones that cost around 5,000 yuan, or $731 in U.S. currency. As such, the country’s smartphone buyers have mostly favored local brands such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, with statistics showing Apple at fifth place with a 9 percent share of smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2019.

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As explained by MacRumors, Apple has long since moved on from Touch ID fingerprint recognition, as its current lineup of handsets — which includes the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR — features Face ID technology, as facilitated by the TrueDepth camera. Originally, Apple’s 2017 flagship device, the iPhone X, was believed to feature Touch ID under the display ahead of its release, but the publication added that the California tech giant opted instead for facial recognition after achieving “early line of sight” with the new technology.

Should Apple release an inexpensive iPhone with an under-display fingerprint sensor as rumored, it would not be the first time the company would be releasing an exclusive device for Chinese consumers, as Apple had previously launched a China-exclusive dual-SIM iPhone variant. However, AppleInsider cautioned that Global Times has a “poor track record” when it comes to reporting on Apple’s rumored plans, adding that the more reliable likes of TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have yet to corroborate the publication’s report.