Apple is apparently readying a new under-display integrated Touch ID fingerprint sensor “as early as its 2020 iPhones” next fall, according to a report today from Bloomberg. The report says it would be an addition to the existing Face ID authentication and unlock system, allowing users to authenticate with either fingerprint or face biometrics.
The publication says the feature may slip to 2021. This echoes a timeframe suggested by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said Apple would launch an iPhone with both Touch ID and Face ID in 2021.
Apple is said to have worked with suppliers and has prepared working prototypes but it’s not yet clear if it can produce the technology at a mass scale, at least in time for the next-generation phones.
Offering both Touch ID and Face ID would increase overall convenience and speed of unlocking the iPhone. A user would register their fingerprints and facial signature, and the phone can unlock as soon as either recognition succeeds. This means Touch ID can make up for Face ID’s weaknesses, and vice versa.
For example, Face ID does not work when the user is wearing some kinds of religious headscarfs, or ski masks. These users could simply depend primarily on Touch ID. Users with skin conditions like psoriasis will not be able to use fingerprint unlocks, and can therefore rely on the Face ID system.
Similarly, an average user sometimes wants to use their phone flat on a desk. Face ID is not very well-suited to this situation, but the existence of Touch ID would make up for that deficiency. Touch ID does not work when fingers are wet, but Face ID is not really impacted by wet skin.
By integrating Touch ID under the display, Apple can retain the bezel-less design of the iPhone X series whilst improving the overall user experience. Several Android manufacturers are already shipping smartphones with integrated fingerprint sensors, but no one is making a phone that contains both 3D-sensing face unlock and fingerprint biometry. The iPhone could be the first to offer both state-of-the-art unlock options in the same device.
Bloomberg also corroborates reporting from Nikkei that Apple would launch a new low-cost iPhone SE-esque model in spring 2020. It is similarly described by Bloomberg as a revised iPhone 8 design and would continue to use a Touch ID home button. The in-screen fingerprint technology is naturally destined for the flagship high-end iPhone models.
For the 2019 iPhone 11 series announced next week, it is expected to feature an improved Face ID system that will work at more angles, but do not expect anything drastic like the inclusion of Touch ID. The appeal of the 2019 iPhones is centered on camera upgrades.
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