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Apple Lowers Face ID Accuracy to Bump Shipments Up—Report

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple has allowed suppliers to reduce the accuracy of its facial recognition mechanism in order to speed up iPhone X production and meet holiday demand.

It’s a story that Apple has denied in comments to Axios, calling the claim "completely false.” It added, "we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication."

The iPhone X relies on a Face ID feature for unlocking tasks previously managed by Touch ID, which the newer device lacks. Expected to hit the market Nov. 3, the supplies of the high-end gadget—which will go for around $1,000—may be constrained thanks to supply chain issues, including a bug in the 3D sensor system used for Face ID.

“It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture, according to people familiar with the situation,” Bloomberg reported.

The tenth-anniversary phone is expected to generate much of the company’s revenue going forward, thanks to its high price tag—and with the company reportedly seeing lackluster sales of the just-launched iPhone 8, the sources said that Apple can’t afford to not meet demand during the busy holiday season.

The sensor is a serious technical challenge; as Bloomberg reported, Microsoft’s Kinect controller is to date the largest production run for the technology, coming in at 24 million units over two years. Apple on the other hand is expecting to ship closer to 40 million units just by the end of the year.

There’s also the size: The Kinect deployment is larger and less delicate when it comes to hardware; Apple’s version is mere centimeters across and only millimeters deep.

“It’s an aggressive design, and it’s a very aggressive schedule,” a source said.

Bloomberg also said that one of Apple’s suppliers for the facial recognition camera, LG Innotek, confirmed in a conference call with analysts that mass production for the iPhone X is just beginning, and that supply may be limited in the holiday season. The 3D sensor shortage should end, however, in early 2018.

For its part, Apple’s only comment on the matter has been its terse statement to Axios.

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