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Rebecca Zisser/Axios

While the broad outlines of the new iPhone are now widely known, both literally and metaphorically, some of its new features have to be seen to really be appreciated, sources said. That's especially true with the facial recognition that serves as the primary means of logging into the new iPhone.

The bottom line: Those who have seen the technology say it is light years ahead of anything that has been tried commercially. A good parallel is the Touch ID fingerprint reader Apple introduced with the iPhone 5s in 2013. There had been fingerprint sensors on phones before, but none with the speed and accuracy Apple introduced. Now Apple is doing the same for faces.

The iPhone's new facial recognition feature is the result of several years of evolution of the technology Apple acquired with its 2013 acquisition of Israeli 3D sensor company PrimeSense. At that point the technology was designed for larger devices and could detect bodies and body parts, but under Apple its capabilities have vastly expanded. Apple's face recognition technology makes use of several sensors on the front of the iPhone, as previously reported by Bloomberg.

Unlike the glitch-prone facial recognition technologies that are out there, such as the iris reader on the Samsung Galaxy S8, the facial recognition on the new iPhone has been trained to seamlessly handle things like eyeglasses and easily adjust to changes in appearance such as beards and mustaches, sources said. It's also extremely fast. And no, it's not likely to be fooled by a photograph, sources say.

The challenges: While Apple has been testing the technology against a wide range of skin tones and changes in appearance, real world conditions will surely throw things the technology can't handle. And Apple needs the technology to work as advertised if it is to replace its rock solid Touch ID as a means of unlocking an iPhone and authenticating Apple Pay purchases.

Apple has been testing the technology with some of its own employees but when it gets into the real world there will surely be issues that haven't cropped up in internal testing,.

There are other limits, including a few particularly tough lighting conditions and how far the phone can be from the face.

Timing: That's Apple's other big challenge: getting this new phone to market. The new iPhone, unlike the incremental updates to the iPhone 7, incorporates a bunch of new technologies. In addition to the face recognition, there is also the fact Apple is switching to a new screen technology and having the screen go nearly edge to edge on all sides. That makes for a much more complex manufacturing process.

As a result, the new iPhone may ship a month or more after the other new iPhones. That poses a tricky situation for both Apple and its customers. The company faces the risk that too many customers want to wait for the new model, freezing sales of the other models. At the same time, those who opt for the evolutionary upgrades may quickly develop buyer's remorse upon seeing the more radically improved model.

All three phones are expected to be introduced at a Sept. 12 event, along with updates to Apple Watch and Apple TV.

Go deeper

Updated 37 mins ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
38 mins ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.

Scoop: Over 200 papers quietly sue Big Tech

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Newspapers all over the country have been quietly filing antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook for the past year, alleging the two firms monopolized the digital ad market for revenue that would otherwise go to local news. 

Why it matters: What started as a small-town effort to take a stand against Big Tech has turned into a national movement, with over 200 newspapers involved across dozens of states.