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"Inside" the fingerprint sensor of the new iPhone 5S

Posted: , by Ray S.

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The new Apple iPhone 5S is here, and with it - a fingerprint sensor! But what does it do, and do we really need this stuff? Well, we can't offer you a complete answer just yet, but from what we saw during Apple's presentation, it looks like this new iPhone feature will prove to be quite handy in our everyday usage.

As expected, the fingerprint sensor of the iPhone 5S will be built right into the new home button (which has a new design, by the way). That means the home button will no longer be just a piece of plastic, but will actually have some quite sophisticated technology behind it.

"Inside" the fingerprint sensor of the new iPhone 5S
Here's how it goes: on the surface we have the super-high-quality laser-cut sapphire crystal that will protect the home button from scratches; around it there's going to be a stainless steel ring, also called "detection ring"; immediately behind the glass cover is going to be the so-called Touch ID sensor, and finally, tehre's going to be a tactile switch.

Now that we've gotten the hardware part out of the way, let's focus on the usability cases of the fingerprint sensor. Actually, Apple hasn't been that specific when it comes to each and every way we're going to benefit from Touch ID, but we at least know that the fingerprint sensor will be used for easy and secure locking/unlocking of the device, as well as for quick authorization of iTunes purchases... which is all a pretty big deal, by the way. According to Apple, most users don't really bother to set up a pass code for their phones, because it takes some time to unlock your device every time, and there's some solid truth behind that. With the new Touch ID fingerprint scanner, though, every iPhone 5S can be easily secured, and in a way that will enable only you (and the other people whose fingerprints you've scanned) to access it. The fingerprint taken by the iPhone 5S will be stored in such a way on the device, which will make it impossible to be downloaded or uploaded to the internet, or even to Apple's own iCloud. When it comes to Touch ID prints, every sample is going to remain on the phone only. And, as we said, the sensor will be able to "remember" multiple prints, so that it won't be impossible to share your phone with others. All of this means that security with the iPhone 5S will get a pretty nice boost, as using the Touch ID sensor to unlock your device will be extremely quick and easy, while others will no longer be able to "guess" your passcode.

The other use case mentioned by Apple — authorizing iTunes purchases — also sounds like a wonderful feature. No longer are we going to need to enter our iTunes passwords each time we want to buy a new app, game, album or whatever. Now, a simple touch on the iPhone 5S's fingerprint sensor will be enough to tell the device that it's really you who wants to make this purchase.

All in all, we're very excited about the fingerprint sensor of the iPhone 5S. It's really an innovative feature (yes, other phones have had such technology in the passed, but they haven't utilized it in a way that would make it go mainstream) that promises to enhance our daily smartphone usage, and that's a very good thing.

Images courtesy of The Verge
Images courtesy of The Verge

Images courtesy of The Verge

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posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:52 4

1. Sauce (unregistered)

iLove it!

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:03 4

9. E.N. (Posts: 2610; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)

They just need to add 3rd party access to this feature and its a home-run. Secure and quick login into your banking apps, amazon, etc. would be really cool.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:05

11. Sauce (unregistered)

Yes that would be great! I used to have a big feeling that something like that would happen, but after they announced that all the fingerprint data will remain only on the processor and no where else (iCloud, servers, etc etc) I'm not sure what to think.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:32

18. zennacko (Posts: 236; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)

For me it\'s good news enough... especially in case you lose or someone steals the phone... since it\'s locked on processor, not even re-formatting the phone would be enough for the thieves.

Would be good if some data were on some server, too, but this seems good as it is for now, at least there won\'t be any kiddies blowing their parents\' wallet playing candy crush anymore (unless it\'s not meant to be used as in-app purchase security too...)

posted on 11 Sep 2013, 02:00

39. GoJin (Posts: 10; Member since: 05 Feb 2013)

.until McGyver gets a hold of some gelly thingy, copies the finger print of the owner on that gel. Then place the gel on top of the sensor...presto!

one heck of an \"innovation\", hehe.

oh, Apple realized this work-around so they \"innovated\" some more by adding voice recognition to increase security that goes with the finger print sensor...but alas!

Jason Bourne comes, does his thing, going, \"Noah Vossen\" click!

Apple goes...fffffff*****kkkkk!!!!

but I love having this on my gadgets though.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:56 7

2. andro. (Posts: 1998; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)

Seeing how often the current iphone home button goes fault,especially just after the 12 month warranty is up I've a feeling this finger print scanner is gonna cause some major headaches when it stops working for mobile network sales staff!!

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:57 2

3. Dorothy69 (banned) (Posts: 498; Member since: 21 May 2013)

So what happens if you jAiLbreak your phone and swap out the Home button, how would you unlock/authorize it??

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:59

5. Sauce (unregistered)

What do you mean Jailbreak the phone and swap out the Home Button? Do you mean customize the Home Button with third party home buttons?

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:59 8

6. PAPINYC (banned) (Posts: 2315; Member since: 30 Jul 2011)

Click your iHeels three times, that should take you home.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:58 4

4. Googler (Posts: 813; Member since: 10 Jun 2013)

Normally I'd say they are a gimmick but having them also act as a password to eliminate steps isn't a bad idea. Wonder if all those articles about kids charging hundreds/thousands of dollars in iTunes on their parents phones had anything to do with this?

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:04

10. good2great (Posts: 1042; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

great observation.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:25 1

26. SellPhones82 (Posts: 569; Member since: 11 Dec 2008)

If you add your kids print as an "approved" one so they can unlock it, won't they then be able to purchase stuff the same way? Will there be different levels of access for a given print like unlock only and/or purchasing on/off? I ending up having to remove my CC all together from my son's iPad since they were order things all the time! Now I just load gift cards and when he burns through them he's done til I load more.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 17:30

34. Googler (Posts: 813; Member since: 10 Jun 2013)

Good question. Google recently adapted multi-users for Android, not sure if Apple is thinking that way also.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 13:59

7. timtimity (Posts: 196; Member since: 13 Aug 2012)

Interesting idea, but what happens if it breaks. Wonder if you'll have to put a passcode in when you add your fingerprint for the first time as a backup.

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:05

47. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

I think if you don't set a passcode, then you can just swipe to unlock as usual.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:00 9

8. GrapeEyes (Posts: 248; Member since: 01 Sep 2013)

NSA are rubbing their hands together, now they can plant your finger prints at a crime scene.



posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:04

46. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

Yeah, but they've been able to do that for a while. Do you seriously think that the NSA will now "just" be able to get your fingerprint? Bah.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:16

12. saiki4116 (Posts: 379; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)

Accident scans.. ::::::D

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:18

13. nhojekim3310 (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)

First of all, having a fingerprint scanner is very risky. My wife is an IT auditor and told me back then about having fingerprint scanner on laptops were and still are very risky. Now they are putting it on a mobile device…What happens when you lose your phone, where your fingerprint is stored...

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:20 4

15. Ninetysix (Posts: 2378; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

Yeah! what happens when you touch ANYTHING where your fingerprint is stored. Does you and your wife wear gloves 24/7 btw? Just curious.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:28 3

16. nhojekim3310 (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)

Wow….another troll.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:31

28. E.N. (Posts: 2610; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)

Your fingerprints are stored on the phone itself. If you lose your phone, no one will be able to unlock it without your Apple ID. Also you can remote wipe the data from your iPhone. This doesn\'t seem any more risky/dangerous than it already is now.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:18 1

14. PK1983 (Posts: 215; Member since: 08 Aug 2012)

The NSA probably paid Apple a few hundred million of our tax dollars to include this feature.

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:03

45. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

Why would they? That's a waste of money, considering the fingerprints are stored on the A7 chip itself.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:30

17. fervid (Posts: 183; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

Gotta run your stuff through spelling and grammar check Ray. And, in the last paragraph it is past, not passed.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:36 4

19. chrisjoel21190 (Posts: 3; Member since: 14 Dec 2012)

People! Don\'t be surprised if you see people with missing fingers all of a sudden, we not only have to worry about getting our phones stolen but thieves tryna chop off our fingers. THANKS A LOT APPLE! :/

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:46 1

20. Ninetysix (Posts: 2378; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

You're welcome. What kind of anti-thief measurements do you have setup on your smartphone currently? Let's see if your implementation is any better.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:51 1

21. chrisjoel21190 (Posts: 3; Member since: 14 Dec 2012)

Yeah dude, I\'d rather just have my phone stolen and keep all my fingers, but that\'s just me.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 17:13 1

32. rawbow (Posts: 428; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)

well they said that the phone would not register dead fingers...so there you go!

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 14:58

22. valapsp (Posts: 557; Member since: 12 Aug 2011)

anyone mentioned the loss of the square in the center of the home button? it's ugly now!

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:05

48. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

Yeah, I think I'll miss it too.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:04

23. InspectorGadget80 (unregistered)

NSA taking data from your fingerprints

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:04

24. paulyyd (Posts: 338; Member since: 08 Jan 2011)

I\'m just curious about when you put a case on your phone. Usually iphone cases cover everything up like my does now. Interesting how water proof cases and other manufactures are going to deal with this

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:11 1

25. dragonscourgex (Posts: 307; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)

I would disagree with you Ray. It is true that other company have already came out with fingerprint scanner in their devices. The two uses you stated were, unlocking and and purchasing over iTunes. Which, let say the Motorola Atrix was only able to use the fingerprint scanner to unlock. Which make sense, since Motorola did not control the Play Store, so it would be kinda hard for them to provide the ability to use biometric data to verify payments. So, only thing that Apple has done different is added the ability for the iTune payment. So, is it truly "innovative", I would have to say no. I would call it more of a logical use for the tech. From what I have read, the fingerprint tech that was in the Atrix was from the same company that Apple bought. So, we have no idea what other OEM would have jump onto f.p. scanner. Or, what could uses they would have come up with. If the company would have stayed an independent company and able to offer their products to all OEM.

All the other company that have messed around with f.p. scanner had the same problem where the scanner would degrade over time, making it almost useless and unreliable. So, what have Apple done to help prevent running into the same problem.

We used to use fingerprint scanner to clock in at work, but we gave up on them cause they turn out to be more of a pain if anything. Any little smudge on the scanner would cause it to fail. If you had a cut on your finger it would not scan. If your finger was dirty, work in a fab shop...so dirty finger is part of the job, it would fail.. I think Apple would have to make sure to address these issues to make sure it did not become annoying to use.

I think it's too early and undeserving to start throwing the "innovative" label on this just yet my friend.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:29

27. dirtydirty00 (Posts: 421; Member since: 21 Jan 2011)

seems like a great idea until u drop ur phone and the scanner breaks. good luck downloading apps

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 17:14

33. rawbow (Posts: 428; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)

oh and you drop other phones and nothing breaks...lol! criticize with some brains dude

posted on 11 Sep 2013, 12:14 1

40. THE.DARK.KNIGHT (banned) (Posts: 269; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)

That's why it's made of sapphire glass! Almost impossible to break or scratch and is very expensive!

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:44

29. gufort (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)

Now Apple crossed all acceptable privacy lines. After the useless Siri that just helps to send your voice data to their servers, now they want to upload your fingerprints as well. Adding you geolocation, voice data, fingerprints, credit card from Apple store, internet profile makes it really, really, really, but really much more than what is acceptable from a privacy perspective.

For me, this feature is a deal breaker for not getting this device. I can avoid using Siri, but not touching the device?? Typical case where more is less. I would get it if I didn\'t have this additional concern.

What is next? Iris scan? And people will like it?? What the hell, does anyone still think?

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 15:55

30. Ninetysix (Posts: 2378; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

Why would the goverment ask for your fingerprint when they already have it? I bet you'll have a different tone in your post when the next Android manufactuerer adds this to their phone.

Also, do you wear gloves 24/7?

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 16:01

31. gufort (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)

No my friend, not Android user. There are some limits that are valid to any manufacturer, and this includes iOS, Android and WP.

If Android and WP also cross my privacy lines, I would rather go back to less advanced devices.

One thing is government authorities getting my data, where they have the legal right to have. The other thing is having to give up your privacy to adopt a device. This cost/benefit does not balance for me.

I mean it. For me Apple just crossed the line with this feature.

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 15:57

41. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

The fingerprints are stored on the processor, not a server. Did you even watch the keynote?

And anyway, I bet the government has had a good, long file on you and I long before PRISM and this Snowden bullsh*t. Have you ever been out of the country? Fingerprint. Believe me, they probably have a lot more sh*t in that file of theirs. It isn't really an issue if they have your fingerprint, if at all.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 17:55 1

35. TBomb (Posts: 733; Member since: 28 Dec 2012)

Now my first question is (and not to get off topic but...) why do people care so much about the NSA having some information about you? So they CAN access your emails or texts or whatever.... it doesn't mean they are. There are over 300 million people in the US... Do you really think they are reading YOUR stuff? Unless your name is on the most wanted list I don't think they're out to get you. As someone mentioned earlier... the situation of the government getting your fingerprint came up as a possibility of this.... pretty sure they probably already have it.

2nd... laptops have fingerprint scanners and if you have it... how often do you actually use it to log on or in general? Mine has it I think I used it exactly 6 times and that was 5 times to set it up and 1 more time to see if it worked. Haven't since. I can type myt passworld just as easily. My point being I don't see this being a big selling point or gimmick like apples hoping for.

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 15:59

42. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

Exactly. Why do people care so much if the NSA is banking their info? I bet they were monitoring suspicious people for a good while before now. It's nothing new.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 20:08

36. AndroidistheFuture (Posts: 11; Member since: 25 Jul 2013)

just hope that the button doesnt spoil over time.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 22:06 1

37. madmikepr (Posts: 138; Member since: 09 Aug 2011)

apple make an whole video for one features \"touch ID sensor\" if android did that with every feature they will make a whole movie... xD

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:02

43. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

No, Apple made a video of Touch ID, A7 processor, the new camera and its f2.2 aperture, five-element lens, and new flash, the detection of different types of light, slow-motion video, burst mode on camera, iOS 7, a new color for the flagship phone, a new phone with many different colors, 64-bit architecture, and faster graphics.

posted on 10 Sep 2013, 22:39

38. xtian1103 (Posts: 363; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)

wait wait wait, did you all suddenly forgot that samsung galaxy note 3 has fingerprint scanner too? lol!!!

posted on 15 Sep 2013, 16:02

44. dvada191 (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Sep 2013)

No, it doesn't.

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