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

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

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:

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.”

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.

Related phones

iPhone X
  • Display 5.8 inches
    2436 x 1125 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera)
    7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A11 Bionic, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2716 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x



64. robertocarlos

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 19, 2017

what does the author mean by modern? if i recall correctly the motorola atrix was the first smart phone with a fingerprint scanner.

60. razmahtaz001

Posts: 501; Member since: May 11, 2013

what??? iphone 5s??? now way... the motorolla atrix had fingerprint scanner first LOL seems like apple is always first to do it even if android already did it LOL...wtf??? btw, apple did not make the first 12+ inch screen tablet...toshiba did with its 13.3 incher more than a year earlier, maybe 2+ years LOL

59. JS132

Posts: 19; Member since: Oct 03, 2013

While Apple may have been the first to use a fingerprint scanner that was widely adopted, its hardly the first. The first mobile device with a fingerprint scanner was the HP iPAQ from 2003. If you want to stick to "modern" smartphones, the first was the Motorola Atrix 4g, released in February of 2011, a full 2 and a half years before the 5s. Come on PA, a quick search proves your first sentence wrong, and makes it hard to take anything you write after that seriously.

57. StanDarth

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 13, 2017

Ginerprint scanning? Seriously? Okay, so they apparently are going to have the largest screen so far, they don't introduce anything groundbreaking and now they may have a silly gimmick of fingerprint scanning? Apple, I used to love you, but this is just... unnecessary.

48. dnomadic

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Sooooo.... It has been a challenge to put the fingerprint scanner under the screen, reportedly, but now we are to believe that the whole screen will no be a continuous scanner. Not buying it... Seems like this would be a costly and unnecessary implementation that Apple patented so they could stake claim and $$ when someone attempts this foolishness. Costly in terms of implementation and in battery life helpful to a few...

54. TerryD

Posts: 566; Member since: May 09, 2017

I assumed that it'd constantly check when you press the home button. So if you give your phone to someone to check out a photo, they can't press the Home button and start going through your emails because it'd fail authentication as soon as a foreign fingerprint is detected.

43. Rock_Hardwood

Posts: 117; Member since: May 11, 2015

I dont like it, scanning all the time is one more thing to wear down the battery

38. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Hold on to your potatoes Dr Jones. All will be revealed soon enough.

35. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

Lol the isheep are going to be mighty disappointed come September/October if they seriously believe an iPhone is going to be a technological marvel. Funny stuff. Bankz is going to shedding some tears. 3D touch has been nothing but a waste of space so far. Apple isn't coming out with anything better than that, which was quite bad. Now as for constant biometric scanning. I think most people would turn it off rather than letting everyone who might use the phone put their fingerprints on the phone. I don't think leaving a fingerprint on the glass and letting anyone freely use your phone is a good idea either.

32. lyndon420

Posts: 6946; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Constant peace of mind?? I laugh lol. That'll be the day when I 'willingly' give my phone any of my biometric data.

28. darkkjedii

Posts: 31809; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

@Techie post 12. No way in hell, could the s5 FPS hold a candle to the 5S. It was far more accurate, and a much better implementation. As maherk said, you gotta be smoking something. The ones now, are on par, but not better, the S5 was straight up crap. Why do you think Samsung moved away from the swipe.

37. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Post 28 True Darkk All though my s5 FPS worked 9 out 10 times once you got it down it was a pain it the butt to swipe your finger.

42. tedkord

Posts: 17532; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It worked as well (Note 4, I never had an S5), but wasn't as convenient.

21. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

RUMORS, people

26. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

We all know that. Thank you

36. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Post 26 No some think what they here is a done deal, so no you all don't know that.

19. Phantom1031

Posts: 267; Member since: Aug 02, 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

25. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 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.

47. Phantom1031

Posts: 267; Member since: Aug 02, 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

52. TerryD

Posts: 566; Member since: May 09, 2017

At least the crap comment section stops people arguing

18. Phantom1031

Posts: 267; Member since: Aug 02, 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

24. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Go get some water. You are going crazy

17. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

All front screen is still rumored? Ok.

8. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

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

16. Bankz

Posts: 2555; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

@cnour see post 12.

7. Panzer

Posts: 283; Member since: May 13, 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.

23. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 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

44. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

My post no.23 is a reply to no.7 Repair you comment system, PA!!!

61. razmahtaz001

Posts: 501; Member since: May 11, 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...

62. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 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.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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