The use of biometrics in smartphones and other mobile device isn’t a new phenomenon. To improve the security as well as ease of access with such devices, manufacturers have used fingerprint sensors for years. In 2013, for example, Apple released the iPhone 5S, which featured the Cupertino company’s fingerprint sensor known as Touch ID.
Since then, several other iPhones, iPads and other Apple products have featured this same physical fingerprint sensor. Found at the bottom of the device, users can press their finger against the sensor to verify their identity and log in to their device. However, Apple may be planning to revamp its signature fingerprint sensor, transitioning from a physical sensor to a digital touchscreen-based sensor.
Apple’s New Fingerprint Sensor: What We Know
As revealed by Patently Apple, Apple was recently granted a patent for a fingerprint sensor that’s embedded within a touchscreen display. How does this differ from the company’s existing fingerprint sensor exactly?
Apple’s Touch ID is a physical fingerprint sensor that’s used in iPhones, iPads and other related Apple devices to verify the user’s identity. Apple users can still opt for a traditional method of verification, such as entering a passcode, but Touch ID offers a simpler solution by eliminating the potential for lost or forgotten passcodes. Users can simply press their finger against the Touch ID button to verify their identity. The device will compare the user’s fingerprint to a stored copy and, if the two match, it will unlock while granting the user access.
The fingerprint sensor for which Apple was recently granted a patent differs in the sense that it’s part of the touchscreen display. More specifically, the patent reveals a touchscreen design based on acoustic imaging. The touchscreen produces sound waves that are projected across the surface of the screen. When you touch your finger to the surface, the sound waves will be disturbed, allowing the device to create a digital image of your fingerprint — at least that’s the basis on which Apple’s patented fingerprint sensor works.
Most smartphones and mobile device feature a physical fingerprint sensor. Apple’s new patent, however, suggests the Cupertino company may transition to a digital, touchscreen-based fingerprint sensor. If this occurs, Apple may eliminate the physical fingerprint sensor from its devices, paving the way for a new era of secure, easy-to-access smartphones and tablets.
It’s important to note that Apple filed the patent back in 2013. Therefore, the company has likely been developing the technology for a fingerprint-embedded touchscreen for at least five years.