How Apple could implement fingerprint sensor on the next iPhone

By , Jan 16, 2013

AuthenTec sensor

Cody yesterday relayed a note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo who tried to guesstimate which products Apple may introduce or refresh in 2013. In addition to multiple iPhone models and all-high resolution iPad lineup (including the expected iPad mini with Retina display), the analyst expects the next iPhone to adopt a a fingerprint sensor. On the surface, that feature sounds a little off.

I mean, Apple just doesn’t put fingerprint sensors inside any of its gadgets, let alone phones, right? Then again, the company did acquire smart sensor maker AuthenTec for $356 million with very specific goals in mind. Shortly after, Apple even sold AuthenTec’s enterprise encryption business unit, signaling its intention to presumably focus on the Smart Sensor unit. Here’s how the built-in fingerprint sensor could enhance your next iPhone…

For starters, he expects that the upcoming iPhone 5S revision will include a fingerprint sensor right beneath the home button. That’s right, not below – beneath the home button.

Such an interesting engineering solution would be difficult to copy for competing Android and Windows Phone devices, the analyst writes in a note (via AppleInsider).

iPhone 5S figerprint sensor (KGI Research)

By integrating the fingerprint sensor into the home button Apple would keep the handset’s design minimalistic while enabling some interesting features.

In contrast, many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, and those buttons frequently lack the mechanical push of Apple’s home button. As a result, attempts to integrate fingerprint scanning on competing devices would be less intuitive, and could frustrate users, Kuo said.

One of the capabilities that immediately comes to mind is an easier system-wide authentication and password management because your fingerprint becomes your main authentication method, replacing cumbersome user names and passwords.

Think of it as 1Password on steroids.

Let’s not forget the stock Passbook app Apple launched with iOS 6 in September 2012. The built-in fingerprint sensor could go a long way toward improving the security and authentication of your boarding passes, tickets and other Passbook items.

mlb passbook ticket

What the analyst doesn’t mention is a likely fingerprint sensor integration with a rumored Apple-branded payment service dubbed iPay. There is no evidence of an iPay platform being in development, but Apple has filed for a bunch of mobile payment related patents, like this iWallet solution.

iwallet app shopper

The company has also been hiring NFC experts, though marketing boss Phil Schiller said Passbook is not intended to become a more direct payment product. Remember, Schiller told The Wall Street Journal that digital wallet solutions are “all fighting over their piece of the pie, and we aren’t doing that”.

On the other hand, Apple now has more than 400 million iTunes account holders.

Given such a massive scale, the company would be foolish not to eventually tap into all these credit cards and turn your iPhone into the ultimate digital wallet, strengthened with fingerprint-based authentication.

SITA’s CTO Jim Peters predicted as much back in June 2012:

Who is thinking of the user? Apple. They don’t argue about it with anybody. They came out with Passbook last week, which is an electronic wallet that they are going to start putting stuff on.

They are going to get people using it (the Passbook application) and then all of a sudden they will allow credit cards to be used in there, on the next iPhone, which will include NFC.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the subject down in the comments.

How else could Apple take advantage of the home button-integrated fingerprint sensor to enhance the capabilities of future iOS devices?

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  • Johnathan Jennings

    This shoulda been in the iPhone 5.

    • iPhone5&sgs2

      I dont think so.
      I cant see why is it nesasery.

      • Johnathan Jennings

        Not needed.. Just really cool

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        exactly/… a feature like this is something that most folks will turn off after a short while… i hope to god this is not their but killer app fro iphone6..

      • lebboytech

        A repeat of siri

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Hagans/100000519586260 Stephen Hagans

        Not sure if any of you have used 1password before but if this was pulled off right and able to be applied system wide (maybe even with apps and websites) this will be a huge hit. Who doesn’t hate keeping track of passwords and typing them

      • lebboytech

        Don’t get me wrong i agree with you 100% but for some people it’ll just be there and useless

      • Jairo

        just like Apple maps was the killer feature for iOS 6 Lol

  • http://twitter.com/myorangeisstuck wahaha

    replace the home button with a thumbprint sensor!!!

  • Carlos Santamarina

    The fingerprint sensor could be used on the iPad to allow multiple users to have their own personalized home screen / icon layout / separate area on the hard drive memory. Once they press the home button, they are authenticated and their individual home screen comes up.

    In essence, allowing multiple users on 1 iPad.

    • lebboytech

      I agree this could be very useful in both homes and buinesses

    • http://www.facebook.com/kd1024 Kartik Dhawan

      Nice idea,
      This would be very useful

  • tggt00

    The windows phone buttons in the picture are wrong.. what a fail..

    • http://www.facebook.com/kd1024 Kartik Dhawan

      Troll epic fail

  • http://twitter.com/Terhoence Terence Ho

    I wish metro/subway cards would be implemented via NFC cause that would be awesome!

    • Kurt

      the subway in s. korea they are. i pull out my wallet, but i don’t take out my credit card, the nfc chip does the rest. and i pay at the end of the month. also i can do the same in a taxi. i never use money. just tap my wallet and go

  • AdamTro

    Don’t like this idea at all. What will be next, a DNA sensor? Even if good intentioned, this is Big Brother slipping its way into Apple products. Folks, don’t trade your freedom for so-called security.

    • http://twitter.com/jrgibson1 Jayar

      Fuck dude. You’re a little paranoid, aren’t you?
      Notebook computers and “palm pilots” have had fingerprint scanners inbuilt for years now, how is this any different?

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    This should have been in the iPhone 5 as shown in the iConcept video on YouTube. This is all that is required (IMO) to make NFC secure, yet easy to utilize on a mobile device.

    • Johnathan Jennings

      I agree. Your comment deserves 100 likes. Although my record is 75-.-

  • sambuzzlight

    I prefer a fingerprint scanner on the screen instead of the home button like the moto atrix. I dont use the home button (thanks to zephyr)

    • Johnathan Jennings

      One problem.. Screens aren’t fingerprint scanners. The Motarola Atrix had the scanner built into the lock button on the back of the phone. Are you into tech at all? You don’t seem very well educated with this stuff..

  • http://www.facebook.com/bunna.chea.5 Bunna Chea

    So if it were a fingerprint on android people would think and comment down here that it stupid but since it apple than people magictly agree with it and think it a smart move.

  • jilex

    “Such an interesting engineering solution would be difficult to copy for competing Android and Windows Phone devices, the analyst writes in a note”

    yeah, but only if apple really implements it, and i don’t think they will…

  • seyss

    this sensor wont fit under the homebutton.. just put your finger on it and see if it covers all your thumb

  • Liam Mulcahy

    If there’s going to be a finger print sensor i hope it works

  • rosssimpson

    I’d rather have face recognition to unlock my iphone – without a jailbreak needed

  • http://twitter.com/Jirakaz Zak Wallace

    I figured, with the way IGZO works (unless I’m mistaken), they would just use the IGZO screen and the authentec technology on the actual phone screen. Instead of swipe to unlock just tap your thumb or finger on the screen (Don’t even light it up first) and bam! You’re in! Way faster and more secure.