$390M Supplier Investment Signals Apple's Definitive Switch to Face ID

$390M Supplier Investment Signals Apple's Definitive Switch to Face ID

$390M Supplier Investment Signals Apple's Definitive Switch to Face ID

Apple said this week it will give $390m to U.S. technology company Finisar, which produces the face-scanning lasers in the iPhone X's Face ID system.

Apple uses VCSELs in its new iPhone X to scan your face for its Face ID feature, "portrait mode" photos and Animoji, and in its AirPod earbuds to sense your ears. There have been rumors indicating that Apple will use the Face ID on upcoming iPhones and iPads. Still, Finisar stock is up 30 percent today, and this is a big deal for the company, which is nearly 30 years old and survived the dotcom bubble and crash experience.

The cash injection is part of a $1bn fund Apple is spending on US-based companies, in a bid to kickstart a new era of "technology-driven manufacturing" in the US. Face ID also seems to be the authentication mechanism set to be standardized across all of Apple's devices in future that now features Touch ID.

The design process at Apple balances creating ground-breaking technology against the manufacturing challenge of finding suppliers who can provide the number of components needed to put new features inside hundreds of millions of handsets.

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Shares of Finisar rival Lumentum Holdings Inc fell 12 percent to $45.80, which Henderson said validates how important 3D sensing technology is to Apple and other vendors. Earlier this year, $200m of the fund was awarded to smartphone glass producer Corning.

Finisar said they are looking to transform a 700,000 sq. ft. abandoned plant in Sherman into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility producing some of the most advanced VCSEL ever to go into the making of a consumer electronics product. The company runs a plant in Allen, just outside of Dallas. This quarter alone, Apple will apparently purchase 10 times more VCSEL wafers than were previously manufactured worldwide over a similar time period.

Hiring, capital equipment planning and infrastructure upgrades are already underway at the Sherman facility, which is expected to begin shipping in the second half of 2018. The latest investment in Finisar will enable the company to boost production, as well as research and development, to create more optical communications parts.

While the delivery wait times for the iPhone X have come down in recent weeks, Apple simply couldn't keep up with initial demand at launch. The iPhone X is now the only Apple product with a facial recognition sensor.

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