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iPhone 8 may have fingerprint-scanning screen for constant authentication and peace of mind

Posted: , by Ray S.

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iPhone 8 is rumored to have an all-screen front, leaving no space for a dedicated fingerprint sensor button.

iPhone 8 is rumored to have an all-screen front, leaving no space for a dedicated fingerprint sensor button.


The first modern smartphone fingerprint scanner made its debut with the Apple iPhone 5s, and it changed everything. This biometric feature was so perfectly executed, it revolutionized smartphone security and privacy in a quiet, yet profound way. With just a touch on the home button, the phone was able to instantly and reliably authenticate the user and let them in. Boom. Done. No more annoying passwords, passcodes, or any other leftovers from the keyboard era.

A massive positive side effect of this new device locking mechanism was that more people actually started securing their handsets. So it wasn't just those who had been previously using passcodes that switched to fingerprints – people who had thus far kept their phones completely insecure also started using the fingerprint scanner as a quick, easy and almost invisible privacy enhancer.

Since the iPhone 5s came about, though, not much has been done to improve the smartphone fingerprint. The technology has become a bit faster and more reliable over the course of a few generations, but for the most part, the experience is largely the same.

The next big step in smartphone security, and peace of mind


The iPhone 5s introduced the modern smartphone fingerprint scanner.

The iPhone 5s introduced the modern smartphone fingerprint scanner.

This year, though, Apple has a shot at changing this. The company is working on the iPhone 8, which is expected to be a major overhaul in more ways than one, including biometrics.

It's not a secret that both Apple and Samsung are working on a special fingerprint scanner implementation, that has the sensor itself hidden somewhere behind the display. The goal of this would be to allow the manufacturers to reduce bezels around the screen, but still keep the fingerprint scanner on the front side of the device. Samsung has thus far been unable to implement this technology in its top-tier phones, but there is still hope that Apple may succeed in time for the iPhone 8. In fact, the future of fingerprint scanning on smartphones looks incredibly bright.

Our current understanding of a phone fingerprint scanner is that it's like a small patch, either built into a button or standalone, that you have to specifically press or touch at a specific time in order for it to obtain a reading and let you in. But what if the fingerprint scanner wasn't a small button somewhere on the phone, and instead – part of, or even the whole screen itself has fingerprint-sensing properties, so that whatever interaction you do with the device, you'll be continuously authenticated? According to Apple's own patents, as well as independent biometrics experts alike, such future actually isn't too far.

We will probably move to a world of ubiquitous sensors. So it’s perfectly reasonable, and consistent with Apple’s patent application, to imagine that the entire screen of a phone would have fingerprint sensing capabilities, unlike the current small patches of fingerprint readers.” says Dr. Thomas Keenan, Professor at the University of Calgary and cybersecurity expert. “Like all technologies, this will get cheaper and it will be feasible to have a “sensor layer” under the screen.” he adds.

What's in it for me?


Leaving technology for technology's sake aside, though, the most important question here, if Apple does indeed manage to successfully bring this innovation to market this year, would concern the actual benefits such an invention may allow. And those, judging by the information we have now, are quite numerous. For instance, the “sensor layer” would be always scanning your fingerprints as you use your smartphone. This would mean that from the moment you pick up and touch your phone (no matter what part of the screen), you'll be recognized and granted access to the system. One would argue that the good fingerprint sensors of today already work quite seamlessly, but this new vision for completely invisible, yet always-there authentication sounds like the next big step for smartphone user experience.

Keenan, who has explored the subject of our waning digital privacy in a book of his own (Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy), goes further, predicting that such a development may lead to a radical change in our smartphone culture:

Now, people are very reluctant to leave their phone or tablet unlocked in case somebody grabs it. If your device is continuously scanning your biometrics, that becomes less of a problem. It will also play a part in high value transactions. Let’s say you are trading securities or entering important medical information from your phone. With sensors spread throughout the screen, operating invisibly, your device can continuously make sure it is your fingers on the keyboard.

If the smartphone does become smart enough so it can continuously scan the biometrics of its user, this would mean that we wouldn't need to worry about where we leave our device, and whether we remembered to press that lock button. Upon being picked up by an unauthorized user, the smartphone will be able to lock itself automatically, denying access to whatever information is kept inside.

For the general consumer though, aside from not having to worry that much about the safety of their digital accounts, photos, and other data stored on their iPhone or other smartphone, possibly the biggest quality of life improvement will come from not having to go through a separate 'authentication step' for certain tasks, as is currently the case. Apple explains this user experience improvement in its patent application 9,652,066:

“... in some instances it may be undesirable to have a user perform an authentication in a separate authentication step, for example switching between tasks to perform the authentication.”

Apple patent illustration depicting a fingerprint-sensing layer covering most of the screen area.

Apple patent illustration depicting a fingerprint-sensing layer covering most of the screen area.



In human terms, this would mean that the authorization prompts users currently get with certain actions, such as when attempting to buy a new game on the App Store or a movie in iTunes, would no longer be needed. With the fingerprint sensors working silently behind the scenes, the user would already be authenticated when they initiate the purchase, saving them the need to see and act upon a separate pop-up prompt.

It's still up in the air if Apple will be ready with the technology in time for the iPhone 8's release later this year, or if all of the features outlined here will be present at launch. It's been speculated that the company has been struggling with both reliability and yield issues, but for most of these innovations, it looks like the question would ultimately be “when”, not “if.” And just like the first modern smartphone fingerprint sensor that debuted with the iPhone 5s, the new, under-the-screen sensor layer Apple's working on may bring about an invisible, yet profound revolution in how security and authentication work on the smartphone.

64 Comments
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posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:24 6

3. TerryD (Posts: 66; Member since: 09 May 2017)


'This biometric feature was so perfectly executed'

I've had a couple of iPhones through work and the fingerprint scanner on both of them is rubbish. Do I just have the wrong type of fingerprints?

If I'm struggling with a dedicated sensor I don't hold out much hope for one where the sensor is under the screen

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:39 15

6. Myphoneisonfire (Posts: 278; Member since: 05 Sep 2016)


TerryD , You're the only person (if you even are one) who's ever said that the iPhone's fingerprint scanner doesn't work properly.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:48 1

9. matix73 (Posts: 13; Member since: 10 Apr 2017)


He's not the only one

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:49

10. matix73 (Posts: 13; Member since: 10 Apr 2017)


Sorry, I meant to reply under your comment where you said iPhone scanners always work.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 19:32 1

58. Greenmule (Posts: 35; Member since: 24 Apr 2017)


there is an interesting article on 9to5 Mac titled: "Apple granted patent for Touch ID sensor in power button as uncertainty remains over iPhone 8 approach"

dateline June 13, 2017.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 16:35

51. TerryD (Posts: 66; Member since: 09 May 2017)


Eh? I replied under comment 6. Why is my reply under 11? Is there any kind of logic to the comment section organisation?

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:56 3

11. mikehunta727 (Posts: 1048; Member since: 12 Sep 2014)


Dedicated sensor under the display will have 2-3x better scanning resolution compared to current physical FP scanners.

These new scanners going under the display should be much better at thwarting attempts at someone trying to "mold your finger" and get in your phone

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 14:12 3

40. Leo_MC (Posts: 2443; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


I am yet to see an iPhone 5s user that doesn't get the phone unlocked without any issues 9 times out of 10.

PS: If you have used techie's phones, you should know that those are the worst Apple devices, produced exclusively for him so that he would have something to write on PA.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 16:33

50. TerryD (Posts: 66; Member since: 09 May 2017)


I must just get the rubbish cast offs :-( Everyone says it great and its just pants for me.

posted on 16 Jun 2017, 16:57

63. pacattack81 (Posts: 96; Member since: 08 Dec 2016)


I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 from a couple of years ago and the fingerprint scanner on it is awful. At this point I can't even delete the fingerprint because it won't recognize it. Not all fingerprint sensors are made the same. I have a Xiaomi Mi Mix and the sensor is awesome. It picks up every time.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:24

4. khalid22 (Posts: 67; Member since: 12 May 2016)


plz remove fingerprint scaner from all smartphones

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:26 4

5. TerryD (Posts: 66; Member since: 09 May 2017)


But then I'll have a massive hole in the front of my phone

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:43 11

7. Panzer (Posts: 50; Member since: 13 May 2016)


I thought the Motorola Atrix had the first fingerprint scanner. Don't think it worked very good. But this is phone arena and facts don't matter.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 12:14 2

23. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


Would have been better if you opened your eyes fully to read. PhoneArena never said in the article that iPhone 5S was the first with a fingerprint scanner. But rather, the first one with a modern fps implementation.

Please stop following the trend

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 14:41 1

44. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


My post no.23 is a reply to no.7

Repair you comment system, PA!!!

posted on 14 Jun 2017, 20:41 1

61. razmahtaz001 (Posts: 314; Member since: 11 May 2013)


"The first modern smartphone fingerprint scanner made its debut with the Apple iPhone 5s, and it changed everything."

dude, where in the above opening sentence of the story mentioned fps implementation? LOL

so the motorolla atrix's fingerprint scanner was not considered modern at that time? LOL whatever...

posted on 15 Jun 2017, 08:00

62. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


The implementation of the modern fps first started after Apple introduced it with the iPhone 5S. Not after the Atrix.

Just like Apple brought​ the first modern smartphone. There were smartphones before too, but Apple reinvented the category and started the trend of producing touch-screen smartphones without keyboards.

Is that logic difficult to understand for you? That's what this article meant too.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 13:04

31. AbhiD (Posts: 92; Member since: 06 Apr 2012)


Are you retard or what ? PA says iPhone 5s wa s the 1st one with seamless fingerprint sensor implementation. All others were not only half baked but also non intuitive to use.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 14:01

39. sissy246 (Posts: 3713; Member since: 04 Mar 2015)


Post 7
It was
No it wasn't the best. I had the phone and the FPS sucked.
But yes it was before iPhone had it but PA likes to post fake news when it comes to the iPhone.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 10:44 4

8. cnour (Posts: 1361; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


Waiting Techie for his stupid comments with fake news and arguments.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 11:21 1

16. Bankz (Posts: 1701; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


@cnour see post 12.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 11:32

17. jeroome86 (Posts: 1950; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)


All front screen is still rumored? Ok.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 11:34

18. Phantom1031 (Posts: 126; Member since: 02 Aug 2014)


Phonearena after every other day writing similar news for fps under the screen. We will lose our total interest in that thing until it is released and we will say we already knew about it and it wont feel any special. Thanks to crplearena

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 12:15

24. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


Go get some water. You are going crazy

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 11:36 1

19. Phantom1031 (Posts: 126; Member since: 02 Aug 2014)


Btw phonearena, when this comment section will be fixed? I have been following this website for more than four years but this issue persists

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 12:17

25. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


This issue emerged only a few months ago.

And you haven't even been here for even 3 years; the registration date is shown beside your name. Though your statement could be true if you read PA articles without registering for a straight year.

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 15:46

47. Phantom1031 (Posts: 126; Member since: 02 Aug 2014)


I did use to be a reader only and did not register myself for comments for a long time. And this comment section issue, sometimes phonearena give links to some of its old articles, those will prove it that their comments used to hellacious even in history, like many other followers of phonearena, i love comments section here, sometimes even not reading articles and directly reading comments only, specially the fanboys war ;). No disrespect intended to u sir

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 16:37 1

52. TerryD (Posts: 66; Member since: 09 May 2017)


At least the crap comment section stops people arguing

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 12:02

21. sissy246 (Posts: 3713; Member since: 04 Mar 2015)


RUMORS, people

posted on 12 Jun 2017, 12:17

26. AmashAziz (Posts: 1261; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)


We all know that. Thank you

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