Okay: Crazy designer ideas time. Bear with me. This is not a prediction of what may or may not happen at tomorrow’s Apple event. Just a thought that’s been rattling in my brain for the past few months.
Have an iPad handy? Great. If not, use your imagination.
Pick up the iPad and hold it as you normally would in landscape orientation. Where are your hands? If you’re anything like me, one of your thumbs is roughly on top of the home button, and the other one is just about covering the selfie camera. Hands are basically in the middle of the device, in other words.
Now, hold the iPad in portrait mode. Where are your hands? Chances are, your hands are towards the bottom of the device, not the middle. Your thumbs are not covering the center of either long side of the device.
Is it me, or is this an argument for Apple putting the Face ID sensor array on one of the longer, landscape sides of the device?
Now, there may be some perfectly logistical, engineering reason why the selfie cam/sensor array needs to stay on the short side of the device. This is why I’m not making any predictions here. But if it isn’t physically difficult or impossible to put the array on the longer side, I think Apple would and should put it there. Otherwise, forget whether or not Face ID can work in landscape or portrait. We may have to take one hand off the device every time we need to authenticate when we are holding in landscape, anyway. Which would not be ideal.
Ever since the 10.5-inch iPad Pro was released, with it’s slightly longer aspect ratio, I’ve used my iPad in portrait mode approximately 0% of the time. It’s just awkward to hold that iPad in portrait, because of its elongated geometry. Positioning the sensor array at the “top” of that orientation makes no sense from a design standpoint, as it optimizes for an edge case, rather than what I’m guessing is “normal” use for most people. (Again, assuming that engineering challenges don’t make this a moot argument.)
On the other hand, if the sensor array were on one of the long edges of the device, Face ID would work just fine in either orientation for most people, as your hands would never be covering the array regardless of how you hold it.
Just a thought. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong tomorrow. But I couldn’t let this thought go without at least documenting it.