Low fingerprint sensor yields may cause iPhone 5S availability issues

By , Aug 12, 2013

5s fingerprint

With Apple’s September 10 media event now all but confirmed and the iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor rumors reaching fever pitch, the somewhat reliable Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes warns the handset could be initially in scarce supply due to low yield rates of a brand new delicate component, the fingerprint sensor.

The report mentions that the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is building these tiny sensors Apple secured after buying the leader in this field, Israeli-based AuthenTec, a year ago. Due to the fingerprint sensor manufacturing challenges, Apple could only put 3-4 million iPhone 5S units on sale in the third quarter versus the original ten million units target…

DigiTimes explains that production of the sensors got pushed back over the issues related to integration between iOS 7 and fingerprint chips, as well as a low yield rate at packaging firm Xintec.

Mass production of the fingerprint sensors was originally scheduled to begin in May at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and then to be packaged at Xintec, a TSMC subsidiary, the sources indicated.

Apple and TSMC already dispatched an engineering team to deal with the production crisis, the story alleges, adding Apple’s supply chain should be able to start volume production of fingerprint chips at the end of August.

Apple is expected to ramp up iPhone 5S production to 28-30 million units in the Christmas quarter, thanks to “sufficient supplies of fingerprint chips” form AuthenTec.

The addition of fingerprint scanning has been called the next iPhone’s killer feature that will obsolete the password by allowing users to authenticate themselves on websites and in apps simply by rolling their thumb over the Home button.

And by rolling out fingerprint sensors across all upcoming iOS devices, Apple stands poised to further demonstrate its gear is safe from malware, an important feat for corporate users. Moreover, the fingerprint sensor paves the way for a rumored iTunes mobile payment service.

iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor (KGI Securities 001)

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the guy who’s been increasingly nailing Apple predictions as of late, explains that the iPhone 5S features a sapphire-covered Home button, protruded in order to provide enough room for a fingerprint sensor.

Apple first used the sapphire crystal to protect the back camera lens on the iPhone 5S. As one expert explains, biometric sensors are extremely delicate, sensitive and prone to damage. As regular use wears down the capacitors, over time the sensor stops to work.

Apple patent (fingerprint sensor encapsulation 003)

The problem is, the coating layer on the fingerprint sensor surface can’t be too thick.

Otherwise, the electrons from your body cannot reach the metallic surface of the sensor to generate a fingerprint image. That’s exactly why Apple is using the sapphire crystal to protect the sensor.

On top of that, the iPhone 5S is understood to incorporate AuthenTec’s RF and capacitive technology which is less susceptible to damage than the common optical recognition used in many other devices.

And if this patent (see the drawing above) is anything to go by, Apple could protect the delicate circuitry required to identify the handset owner by utilizing a unitary encapsulation structure to protect a biometric sensor inside a device.

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  • D.

    The fingerprint sensor is just a gimmick. I can understand the technological advance of having such a feature on a smartphone devise, but honestly, inputting 4 digits isn’t that time consuming. I also don’t like the idea of my finger prints being scanned. It’s just weird.

    • Stefano

      …K

    • mnm221988

      Agree, but the S4 is beyond gimmicky with their “features”. I’d think this is a lot better, though if this is their only new feature and how iOS 7 will change the mind of buyers, then I might as well get the iPhone 5 and paint it a different color.

    • Juan Herrera

      Yeah i agree to point, but to call it a gimmick is a bit much. A 4 digit password can still be cracked, especially in comparison with fingerprint scanning, it’s a far more archaic form of security.. It’s not about it being time consuming. How likely is it for someone to have your exact fingerprint to unlock your phone, let’s say, if stolen? Laptops have already been able to scan fingerprints in place of logins for years, why not a phone which is a much more frequently used device by all? We all use our phones for just about everything. Why not be more secure, especially with many reports of iPhone theft increasing across the country?

      • Matt Dowdy

        If someone decides to stoop so low as to mug someone for their iphone what’s to say that they wouldn’t take a piece of you with them whilst they were at it say I don’t know… Your finger maybe?

      • Rupinder S

        I had to laugh at that one lol. It wouldn’t be funny, but what are the odds of someone being so desperate?

      • Juan Herrera

        Always a possibility in this world we live in, but really, what’s the odds of that happening over someone simply robbing you or maybe gunbutting you, stabbing you, shooting you, assaulting you, etc..? I’d imagine quite low and not everyone is willing to take such extreme measures because not everyone’s built for chopping off a finger

      • Gorgonphone

        fingerprint data files can be lifted from the phone..lol

      • Juan Herrera

        of course but do you think it would it be as simple to accomplish for the average joe stealing a phone from someone?

    • Gorgonphone

      i will turn it off

  • Fevostone

    All apple need to do is make the screen go Edge to Edge and keep the phone the same size and make all the Usual upgrades and it’s a winner STOP with these pointless Sammy gimmicks plz

    • Kurt

      Edge to Edge phones look really nice in person. Especially @441ppi! I was really impressed. Hope more phones follow suit

      • Matt Dowdy

        Down vote that man he nearly said the A word

    • Gorgonphone

      wont happen

      • Fevostone

        True put you would think someone working for apple would be smart enough to work it out to keep people happy with the same size phone but bigger screen well I would LOL

  • @dongiuj

    I see another apple problem coming soon maybe. “You’re not touching it right”

    • Gorgonphone

      yup soooo true… and lawsuits from emergency situations where the sensor fails…hahah

  • disqus_ZsOCbJAz3k

    I think the fingerprint scan works at the moment when you click on the home button, if it’s your fingerprint it automatically unlock the phone.

  • Brutal07

    I don’t see why it is necessary for Apple to insert a fingerprint scanner into it’s phone. I have a feeling that there is more government involvement here than meets the eye. Apple already knows what music I listen to, what movies I like, where I live, can potentially track where I am at any moment, and now wants a copy of my fingerprint?

    I’m sorry, but this reeks of invasion of privacy under the guise of security. Our privacy is being eaten away at slowly, one small bite at a time, and what’s worse, is that the majority of people have a “Im not doing anything bad, so I don’t care if I’m being monitored, tracked, targeted, etc.”

    That stance will inevitably get us into trouble sooner rather than later. This is just my opinion, but think about it, what’s next on the list. I can read the news flash now..

    “New Apple iPhone 6 to include Iris scanner and DNA extractor, to provide greater security against theft.”

    If Apple does indeed include a fingerprint scanner in it’s next iterative upgrade of the iphone, I’m seriously going to reconsider my options.

    • Gorgonphone

      obama liften their sales ban in return he will get you finger prints..lol many consumers will drop just cause of this BS>..hahhaha

    • Antzboogie

      I am not trading my Freedom for no one!

  • Gorgonphone

    lololoo here we go with this BS to boost demand for this boring iphone5 clone..

  • Jonathan

    Either way, with the fingerprint scanner in mind, you can still crack the iPhone even with the scanner, by just turning off the phone and holding the home button and plug it into itunes and restore it. Apple needs to fix that. They never payed attention to that.

  • Rudy

    This would be good if we can switch users on the ipad using our fingerprint.

  • Steven Honey

    dont worry about your fingerprints going to apple and the government if you are military or prior service…they already have your fingerprints.

    • @dongiuj

      And if you have travelled to Japan recently or been stopped for a minor traffic offense there.

  • Beck Hoefling

    “Apple first used the sapphire crystal to protect the back camera lens on the iPhone 5S.” 4S*

  • Yunsar

    Yup, definitely expecting ‘fingergate’

  • Bashar Saade

    it will called 5s because of the sensor the S for Sensor