Apple has famously been all-in on Face ID since it debuted the feature on the iPhone X. But a recent patent application suggests that may not have always been the case.
The application, filed in Europe in January and published Thursday, is written in the typically dense language of patents. But it basically describes various methods of implementing biometric authentication.
It’s a far-ranging patent that covers a lot of ground, including facial recognition on an Apple Watch. One of its key conclusions is the fact that biometric authentication is inconvenient for the user.
But it’s a small section buried deep within the patent that may be of the most interest to Apple users. It describes using an “alternative form of authentication” if one biometric authentication method fails.
Essentially, the patent paints it as a way to mitigate the inconvenience of using the same authentication method again or resorting to entering a passcode if the first attempt fails.
Even more interesting is the fact that a figure included with the patent does specifically mention Touch ID as a way to log into a device if facial recognition fails. That hints at an iPhone having both Face ID and Touch ID.
The patent application suggests that Apple has at least considered including both authentication methods on a device. And it was filed back in January, a few months after the iPhone X’s debut.
Having multiple authentication methods on a device could carry a number of benefits for a user.
For example, users could resort to Touch ID if they are wearing anything that obscures their face — or if they’re in a situation where using Face ID would be inconvenient, like in bed with your face still buried into the pillow.
Similarly, having both systems could lead to extremely secure dual-authentication that could be used for sensitive financial transactions or account logins.
It’s worth noting that the patent diagram is just an example. If Apple does release a new iPhone with Touch ID in the future, it would almost certainly use some sort of in-display fingerprint sensor.
But an iPhone with both Touch ID and Face ID is indeed possible and this patent application reveals that Apple has actually considered such a solution.