Analyst: iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor limited to user authentication, secure payments due in 2014

By , Aug 13, 2013

iOS 7 (slide to unlock teaser 001)

The upcoming iPhone 5S revision, likely slated for an announcement at Apple’s upcoming September 10 media event, is widely expected to include the fingerprint scanning feature based on Apple’s 2012 acquisition of smart sensor experts AuthenTec.

Now, there’s been a lot of uncertainty as to what software features the smart sensor might support.

According to a research note issued late yesterday to clients, an analyst predicted the feature would be initially used to authenticate users in place of the iOS slide-to-unlock feature because rumored secure payments which are dependent on the smart sensor won’t be ready in time for the iPhone 5S introduction…

MacRumors has the quote from Munster’s note to clients:

We expect the iPhone 5S to include a fingerprint sensor with a basic unlocking feature, but do not believe the sensor will be built into iOS 7 enough to introduce a feature like secure payments as we believe that Authentec has only been a part of Apple for less than one year.

We believe that payments could be a key feature of the next version of iOS in 2014.

I think Munster is only telling half the story.

I don’t think Apple did not have enough time to implement additional fingerprint scanning features on the iPhone 5S. It’s more like fingerprint scanning will be this year’s Siri – that is, an exclusive feature purposefully limited at launch to the iPhone 5S.

But as Apple rolls out the fingerprint sensor across other upcoming iOS devices such as the iPad 5, iPad mini 2 and perhaps even a sixth-generation iPod touch, I imagine the company will gradually roll out additional software capabilities built around the fingerprint scanning hardware.

Apple patent (fingerprint sensor encapsulation 003)
Apple’s patent describes protecting the delicate fingerprint scanning circuitry

At any rate, the company is in an interesting position where it could demonstrate its fingerprint sensor outfitted devices are safe from malware, an important feat for corporate users. And there’s no doubt that the fingerprint sensor is the key pre-requisite for a rumored iTunes mobile payment service.

He’s also expecting an iPhone phablet and a rumored Apple-branded smartwatch by mid-2013 and says the iPad 5 and the new iPad mini will arrive in October. Finally, the analyst re-iterrated his long-standing stance that Apple could unveil a standalone TV set before year’s end, “with a 70 percent chance of the product shipping within the first half of 2014″.

iTV mockup (AllThingsD 002)

Interestingly, Munster thinks Apple will keep the current iPhone 5 alongside the iPhone 5S and budget iPhone, which contradicts a report by ETNews alleging Apple will discontinue the iPhone 5 following the upcoming launches. For what it’s worth, Apple’s strategy thus far has included offering past two iPhone generations at reduced prices alongside the current model.

Gene Munster (Apple blockbuster Fall 2013 predictions)
Munster’s predictions regarding Apple’s blockbuster Fall.

Fingerprint scanning, apparently the next iPhone’s killer feature, could obsolete the password by allowing users to authenticate themselves on websites and in apps simply by rolling their thumb over the Home button, a PayPal executive recently opined.

fingerprint-sensor-concept

According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone 5S could integrate fingerprint sensor in the iPhone’s Home button, which will be protruded in order to provide enough room for the sensor. And because biometric sensors are extremely delicate and prone to wear and tear, Apple is expected to cover the Home button with sapphire.

It’s worth mentioning that AuthenTec’s RF and capacitive sensor technology is far less susceptible to damage than the common optical recognition used in other devices.

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  • Maxim∑

    Its ONLY limited user authentication?? that sucks… /s

    • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

      Lol, what else do you use a fingerprint scanner for? You authenticate to unlock your phone, purchase an app, login to a website, login to a financial app, etc. The secure credit card payment isn’t really useful without NFC, which I doubt is going to be in the 5S.

      • Maxim∑

        lol yeah! the title of this article says that

  • Rowan09

    I’m really waiting on the iwatch and a new iPad for my fiancé. Apple looks like they have a lot going on. Time will tell.

  • Linton Findlay

    what is going to be the point of the finger print sensor, i dont really care if someone accesses my phone, and id rather have NFC for quick payments

    • Rowan09

      Who said they don’t have NFC on this iPhone? I don’t know if you live in the US but NFC isn’t popular yet if Apple does it though it will become more popular. I never understand why people ask for things like LTE on a phone when LTE was only in 5 cities, it’s useless without support.

      • Linton Findlay

        here in the UK most banks are rolling out contactless payment cards and a handful of big chains are getting use out of it. we didnt even begin getting LTE until the iphone 5 was announced and even now only 1 carrier supports it, with more to come. NFC is generally more useful too, NFC stickers allow for quick change of settings on android phones depending on the settings youve programmed and the situation(IE turn wifi off when you tap a sticker in the car, and open up the tomtom app), cant see why apple couldnt do something similar to that

      • Rowan09

        Here’s a big problem with NFC, people can buy a reader and get your information wirelessly without you knowing. Apple will always wait for something to mature in the market, I’m assuming they will add NFC to this iPhone if not the 6 especially since airdrop is now available on IOS.

      • http://lucaskunert.com/ Lucas Kunert

        Well now that there IS an iPhone w/ LTE, the networks’ expansion has been booming since then. I guarantee they would’ve taken their sweet time had there not been such a high demand for it, which kind of is the first point you make. If it’s not popular now and Apple creates something to make it easy, then that will expand big time once the feature exists for use on everyone’s phone.

      • Rowan09

        Yes what I’m saying is when the iPhone 5 was released there where actually states with LTE coverage, they never go into the market premature just like the iPhone 3G, Android had 3G capable phones but no one had 3G networks up so it was useless. Apple always wait for the market to mature its in their DNA and they won’t change it.

    • TeChNoStyLeZ

      you may not care if someone gets access to your phone but some people may have important information on their phone like online banking accounts etc.

  • Zorvage

    I think Apple releasing an iTV, iWatch and fingerprint sensor will put them back at the top of all company’s.

    • Rowan09

      They are still on top since they are making the most money but I agree it would show they aren’t just relaxing.

  • Gorgonphone

    eh……..

  • Al Fresco

    what about my touch sensitive gloves? I can use them for the touch screen but now every time I have to unlock the phone I’ll have to take my gloves off to authenticate?

    • Timothy

      I doubt the authentication will be required. It will probably be implemented like the current passcode feature — only on if you want it.

  • ImLouis

    I’m questioning if it will still be a button! there isn’t any need for a physical button press if the fingerprint sensor detects your print. Also the buttons at the moment do break so if they remove it and just have a sensor then they have fixed that problem

    • http://lucaskunert.com/ Lucas Kunert

      I’d assume it’d be pressure sensitive, too, so we could assume it won’t be a physical button (if it even can be one w/ the sensor anyway). I wonder how the double taps and such will work for things like multitask. I’m sure they’ve worked it all out.

    • Falk M.

      Well, the reason Apple hasn’t already gone with a capacitive home button (akin to most Android phones and tablets nowadays) is due to the lack of haptic feedback. And no, a short vibration isn’t the same in terms of user experience.

      Stick to the physical button as long as you find something that’s really a decent replacement.

  • Timothy

    Putting the fingerprint sensor in the home button would make it easier to repair if the sensor stopped working. Apple could simply remove and replace the home button, perhaps in-store, whereas putting it under the glass (whether under the touch screen or bezel) would make replacing it more complicated.

  • Markus Seiler

    “user authentication”… maybe this could lead to user profiles on one device?!?
    Your child unlocks your phone or even ipad and is limited to appropriate games for the little ones (no settings or whatever visible)….

  • Patrick

    message to apple:)

  • Dante Arellano

    It will be a scanner bar scanner no finger scanner!!!!

  • Yunsar

    Honestly, I don’t think apple will use fingerprint scanning to unlock the iPhone, I think it would only be for transactions

  • Yunsar

    TV before the watch? They’ve already trademarked iWatch and there’s been no mention of iTV