It looks like Apple is already taking its first steps to letting users sign onto web sites with Face ID and Touch ID, naturally using its own iCloud.com web site as a test bed.
As 9to5Mac has discovered, users who are running the beta versions of either iOS 13 or macOS Catalina will now be prompted to sign in with Face ID or Touch ID when visiting beta.icloud.com — the alternative test site Apple uses for deploying new web-based iCloud features.
With the latest iOS and macOS betas, as soon as you hit the site, you’ll see a popup, similar to what appears for App Store purchases, asking if you’d like to sign-in using your default Apple ID. A large “Continue” button lets you immediately authenticate with either Face ID or Touch ID, while a smaller “Use Different Apple ID” link presumably bypasses biometric authentication to let you sign in normally with a different ID (although this doesn’t yet appear to be working from our own testing).
This also works for macOS users with Touch ID equipped Macs, allowing them to use their fingerprint to authenticate to the full iCloud.com site. While 9to5Mac adds that users on the betas who visit the standard iCloud.com site should be automatically redirected to the beta site, this wasn’t the case in our own experience; accessing the normal “iCloud.com” presents the same sign-in page as before.
It’s also worth noting that for iPhone users, the iCloud.com experience hasn’t changed — it’s basically still just a portal to Find My iPhone, mirroring the feature that’s already available in the new built-in “Find My” app, so while it’s cool to be able to sign into iCloud.com with Face ID, there’s not really much practical need for it.
In fact, the same can be said even for signing into the full iCloud.com website on a Mac. Since most of the features provided by the web-based iCloud.com site are already present in the native macOS apps, there’s seldom a need to visit the full site even on a desktop computer — at least not as the same already-signed in user, which is all that Face ID and Touch ID authentication offers; visiting iCloud.com is arguably more useful when you’re using somebody else’s computer, iPhone, or iPad and want to access your own info or find your missing device — both situations where Face ID and Touch ID aren’t going to be much help.
Notably, however, this feature doesn’t appear to require two-factor authentication either — meaning you won’t get a six-digit code on your other devices that you’ll need to enter. This makes sense, since the biometric authentication is far more secure than a simple password, and your face or fingerprint is already the “second factor” in this scenario.
A Sign of Things to Come
It seems likely that this is the first step in Apple’s larger Sign In With Apple feature that it touted as part of the new iOS 13 and macOS Catalina era. This is basically Apple’s own privacy-focused answer to Facebook and Google’s single-sign on solutions, leveraging a user’s Apple ID along with Face ID and Touch ID for secure authentication, while collecting only that information that is absolutely necessary and offering private e-mail addresses as needed.
Developers are actually expected to be getting their hands on the necessary tools this summer to enable Sign In With Apple, prior to the public launch of the feature in September, so it’s possible we may also see more websites beginning to offer these capabilities as the iOS 13 beta cycle continues.