Apple still working on under-display Touch ID, new patent shows

Apple still working on under-display Touch ID, new patent shows
Image above courtesy of LetsGoDigital

The strange case of Apple’s Touch ID just got even more complicated. Ever since the removal of the feature from flagship phones back in 2017 (you can still get it on the iPhone SE) people have been polarized about it - some want it back, some are perfectly fine with Face ID.

When Android flagships started to integrate fingerprint scanners under their displays, the debate was rekindled once again. Famous analyst and insider Ming-Chi Kuo sparked the hopes of TouchID fans last year, saying that Apple is working on under-display TouchID, and a foldable iPhone (albeit the plans were supposedly pushed back one year).

On the other hand, Mark Gurman voiced the opinion that Apple is not so keen on developing under-display TouchID, and is more invested in the FaceID technology. Now, the story has a new twist, as Apple has been granted a new patent.

The patent in question was published on Tuesday by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), after being filed a couple of years ago back in September 2019. The title is quite telling: “Under-display fingerprint sensing based on off-axis angular light.

Here’s an abstract of the description found in the patent documents:

While the abstract seems like taken from an advanced course in optics or astronomy, what it really means is that Apple is still working on a way to integrate TouchID under iPhone’s display. There were some rumors that the company was actively testing the functionality with iPhone 13 but apparently decided to stick to FaceID with the series.

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According to the latest predictions, leaks and rumors, we might see an iPhone with under-display TouchID later this year, at the earliest - with the launch of the iPhone 14. Apple writes in the patent papers that an under-display TouchID would be "particularly advantageous for verification and/or authentication in an electronic device."
Another thing that the aforementioned patent reveals is that Apple is going along the optical fingerprint route, rather than experimenting with ultrasonic or other non-light-based technology. Of course, we’re talking about patents here, which means there’s nothing set in stone. Tech companies publish hundreds of patents every year, and only a miniscule percentage of them appear on a mass produced device.

Will there be a TouchID flagship again? - Our take

Even though Apple seems to be lagging behind the competition when it comes to under-display biometry, the question regarding TouchID should be “When”, rather than “If.” The company already brought back TouchID to the latest iPad models, and leaving the iPhone family TouchID-less is not really an option.

Plus, FaceID can only do so much, and there are various problems with it when it comes to users changing their appearance for some reason. Even though Apple says that FaceID is more secure, works faster, and it’s less likely to get spoofed or hacked, the reality is that many online payment services and sites which require authentication in general, now work with fingerprints.

Even if FaceID is the more secure and faster method, Apple would need to add the fingerprint option in order not to be left behind on the feature front. Of course, all these are opinions and everyone has their own. Feel free to comment on the TouchID situation below, and also tell us which one do you prefer - FaceID or TouchID (or neither?).

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