Counterpoint estimates more than 1 billion smartphones to be shipped with facial recognition in 2020

More than a billion smartphones will be shipped with facial recognition in 2020, as Apple competitors follow it in adopting similar technology, according to a new report from Counterpoint Research.

A number of OEMs will follow Apple with facial recognition integrated in devices released in 2018, the report says, including Samsung, which will offer 2D facial recognition along with iris recognition, and OnePlus, which will offer 2D facial recognition alone. The trend will continue, with manufacturers choosing between 2D and 3D based on price point. By 2020, nearly 60 percent of all smartphone facial recognition systems will use 3D technology, the firm estimates.

This could lead to facial recognition becoming “the de-facto standard” for device unlocking, Counterpoint says, as fingerprints are now, with more than a billion devices shipping with fingerprint sensors in 2018. Only five percent of smartphones shipped in 2017 included facial recognition technology, but Counterpoint estimates that number will rise to 23 percent this year, 40 percent next year, and 64 percent of all shipments in 2020.

“Although Face ID may not be the most convenient way to unlock a phone under all situations, it is well-suited for applications that require higher security, such as mobile payments, and where speed is not necessarily of the essence,” says Peter Richardson, Research Director at Counterpoint Research. “In such cases, consumers may be happy to wait longer, say 2-3 seconds, in return for a much higher level of security, such as when purchasing an expensive item using their phone.”

The combination of AI-based machine learning algorithms and faster processors will enable software-based facial recognition systems that avoid traditional drawbacks of 2D face images, for instance by providing spoof protection. Ultimately, according to the report, mobile devices will integrate fingerprint, face, voice, and iris recognition, layering the modalities for different applications.

“In 2018 we expect all leading handset manufacturers to launch flagship handsets with facial recognition capability. Some will also be inspired by Apple’s ‘notch’ design, though this won’t be necessary in every case to deliver the face recognition technology – it will be more of a fashion statement,” Counterpoint Research Director, Neil Shah says. “In addition to flagship products, we expect 2D face recognition will find its way into mid-range products from leading Chinese handset brands.”

As previously reported, a KGI securities analyst recently told investors that Face ID and TrueDepth make the iPhone X a “strategic success” regardless of sales.

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