Until a month ago if someone had asked me if the iPhone 12 (and the 12 Max and the 12 Pro and the 12 Pro Max) would come with an embedded fingerprint reader in the screen – as several Android models have done for some years – I would have told him it was possible.
It’s something the company has worked on in the past and for which it even obtained a patent. However, Phil Schiller (in the FaceID presentation in September 2017), explained the benefits of the facial recognition system that they launched with the iPhone X over the fingerprint recognition system and the discussion of the embedded fingerprint reader died. But the pandemic has changed everything and the ease – and security – offered by Face ID is truncated by the necessary use of the mask named as kissanime.
So rumors have started to spread that Apple will retake the patent for a Touch ID that is embedded under the iPhone screen and will introduce it with the equipment that we will see in October. And although at first glance it makes sense, there are 2 recent decisions of the company that make me doubt this path and that I believe will lead Apple to take another path.
1 – The end of 3D Touch
3D Touch is dead. It hurts because as one of the few users who actually used it, I feel like it was a missed opportunity. Something that never achieved the necessary recognition for its adoption to become widespread. Since the iPhone XR Apple has been making this technology face-out from the hardware point of view and with the introduction of iOS 14 and watchOS 7 the 3D Touch will not work either in new equipment -which no longer include the necessary sensors- or on old equipment. In his replacement Force Touch takes control.
The lesson? It is possible to do the same with one more swipe, with a long touch, with cheaper technologies that imply fewer layers in the component that is most damaged in the devices: the screen. This reduces not only manufacturing but repair costs and is even more environmentally responsible.
Why, after this experience, would Apple include a fingerprint reader under the iPhone screen that comes back and complicates the issue of the screen? I don’t think it makes sense.
A couple of years ago I was in a security and privacy session with the Apple team talking, among others, about why the iPhone did not include more than two authentication methods (the key and Touch ID or Face ID but not both) in moments when Samsung allowed to unlock its ultra-end smartphones with the key, with the fingerprint, with the face and even with the iris. And the answer was concrete: more methods, more risks.
This is why I don’t think Apple will add a second biometric authentication method to its new iPhones. This is why I think that, rather, they should be focused on enriching the Face ID experience so that it works even when the user has a mask, through a mixture of recognition of the user’s face and iris.
2 – The new Touch ID of the iPad Air
If you have not seen the new iPad Pro, I invite you to do so. It is DI-VI-NO. It takes the look – & – feel of the iPad Pro, removing the frames and the home button at the bottom and adding colors to make it more dynamic.
But what is really interesting (well, one of the interesting things) about the device is that instead of adopting the Face ID sensor of the Pro models – which would increase its cost – it incorporates a new Touch ID reader embedded in the home button. It’s nothing new (I think Sony was the first to do it on a smartphone and today there are several Android smartphones that offer it) but Apple’s record track allows us to know that this will be a super secure biometric sensor, faster than the previous one. and smaller than ever. Something that could work in tandem with FaceID to create a unique experience.
Think of a scenario like this: if your face is visible Face ID does the validation work on its own. But if half of the face is covered by a mask, the system could use the mixture of the upper part of the face with fingerprint validation to do the authentication.
With that, it would maintain the levels of security and privacy that Apple offers and allows users a faster way of authentication in the midst of this current conjuncture. And it’s cheaper than the in-screen fingerprint sensor. For now, we can speculate and balloon. What will finally happen? We have to wait a month to see what solution the iPhone team has decided to take and with what technologies the 4 iPhone models that we hope to see will arrive.