The iPhone 11 could scan the veins in your face to unlock

Image credit: TechRadar

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 11 may use a form of Face ID that scans veins to determine who’s picking it up, according to newly discovered patents.

The patent, filed in February 2018 and discovered by BGR, shows a front-facing camera on a device which scans the veins and blood vessels in a user’s face to determine who’s using it, a feature called 'subepidermal imaging'. 

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This camera would scan your face, possibly using infrared, and the device’s processor would compute the information using a range of processes that are also detailed in the patents, which involve scoring the scan based on previous templates and scans.

While a patent is no guarantee that a feature will be included in a device – this patent was filed before the release of the iPhone XS, and the feature didn’t make it into that phone – it would be a small but useful step in improving the security of Apple’s handsets. 

Why not Face ID? 

If Apple did choose to use this feature for the iPhone 11, it wouldn’t be the first company to use vein recognition as a way to unlock a phone – the LG G8 ThinQ will also have this tech when it releases at some point in mid-2019.

The reason many companies are moving from face recognition to veins is that some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S10, can be tricked into unlocking for the wrong user by masks or photographs, but subepidermal imaging removes this risk.

The patent includes a rough sketch of whatever iPhone or iPad would use this technology, including its camera, which would have a flood illuminator and speckle illuminator, two forms of imaging technology, as well as the main sensor – but we can’t tell anything else about the device from the picture.

The iPhone 11 launch is still a way out, given that Apple always launches its flagship handset towards the end of the year, but until then we’ll keep you updated with all the latest iPhone news and rumors.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.