King May 3, 2019

Apple iPhone

In the past couple of months, rumours and speculations about Apple’s upcoming iPhone- the iPhone 11 – have given us a brief idea as to what the device, when it launches, would look like. A triple rear camera setup with a bump in the top two variants and a dual rear camera setup in the lower cost variant is what is in line for Apple’s 2019 iPhone lineup. Reports have also indicated that Apple could finally launch a 5G-enabled iPhone with Qualcomm modems in 2021. While these reports have given us a brief idea about what to expect from Apple in the future, none of them have talked about Touch ID, a technology that the Cupertino, California based company abandoned with the iPhone 8. But now, a fresh report has sparked rumours the company could bring this technology back in its future iPhones.

Apple has been granted a patent which explains that Apple could use an acoustic imaging system to map a high-resolution image of an object, like a fingerprint, on the surface of a device. The patent titled “Methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces” talks about using a component called an acoustic transducer to generate a signal, like a mechanical wave or a pulse, when a finger is placed on the display of the device. This signal can be then matched with an existing database to determine if the image is a known one.

In simple words, the patent filed by Apple talks about using a technology that is similar to the in-display fingerprint sensor used in the Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone. This technology, as the patent describes, can be used not only as a fingerprint sensor but also as an authentication device for “displaying financial information or trade secret” – somewhat like Face ID.

What’s more, this technology could also be used for auntentication using other biometric parameters such as ears, palm, cheek or face. Additionally, it could also be used for measuring biometric features such as the heart rate, respiration rate and blood oxygen level. Needless to say that this technology is way more advanced and complicated than the one used by smartphones these days and so it is possible that Apple may deploy it in its iPhones in future but it is also possible that this patent may not see the light of day at all. There is ample evidence to support both the notions.

For starters, a technology this advanced – one that can measure biometric parameters — hasn’t been deployed in smartphones and smart watches so far. So it is possible that Apple could one day integrate it in its future iPhones or even Apple Watches. We already know that Apple holds a patent to a technology that would allow it to calculate the UV light exposure levels so that it can help in preventing conditions such as skin cancer or sunburn.

The contrarian view is that Apple has outgrown this feature. Apple filed this patent back in September 2016 and it got published by the US Patent and Trademark Office this week. Since then, Apple has slayed the jack, removed the home screen button, introduced the notch and the Face ID on its iPhones for aunthentication. And so it seems highly unlikely that Apple would be go back to using Touch ID.

Having said that it is also possible that Apple could deploy a combination of Face ID and an extremely advanced Touch ID (or an in-display fingerprint sensor) in its future iPhones – as in the case with many premium Android smartphones like the Galaxy S10. What Apple has in store for its future iPhones – including the iPhone 11 — remains a mystery as of now and we won’t know anything for sure till Apple unveils its new iPhone lineup later this year.