Although many thought the idea of an in-display fingerprint sensor on the iPhone was dead, a resurgence of reports over the last few months strongly suggest that Apple is still working to perfect the technology in order to bring Touch ID back to the new iPhone X design.
The rumours themselves aren’t new, of course, and when we first saw reports three years ago that Apple was working on an edge-to-edge OLED iPhone that would eliminate the home button, many expected the Touch ID sensor to move into the display, and it looks like Apple was at least mulling over the idea, but instead Apple came out of left field with the Face ID equipped iPhone X in 2017.
We may never know if Apple simply couldn’t get in-display Touch ID working well enough at that time or if it genuinely thought Face ID was a better idea that would obviate the need for Touch ID, but for the next two years the company went all-in on promoting Face ID as a superior solution, relegating Touch ID to its iPads and MacBooks.
While not everybody agrees, Face ID has proven itself superior to Touch ID in many cases — it’s much more seamless, especially when working within apps, and it’s a more secure method of authentication. Plus, Apple’s TrueDepth camera that’s needed to support the feature offers a whole wealth of other benefits, such as Portrait Mode for selfies and Animoji. The downside is that these cameras and sensors make for some of the most expensive components on modern iPhones.
Technology Marches Forward
While Apple’s original attempts at in-display Touch ID never saw the light of day, a new patent discovered earlier this year suggested that Apple may have found a better way to do this by using acoustic fingerprinting technology, which maps out a user’s fingerprints using sound. Combined with other reports that suggested that Apple was trying to lock down a supply of fingerprint sensors, this provided enough smoke to suggest that it was definitely working on some way to bring back Touch ID to its mainstream iPhones.
Now a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman adds substantially more weight to an early August report from Ming-Chi Kuo that suggests that Touch ID will be making a comeback in at least some form, and will be offered in addition to Face ID, and not just in a lower-end iPhone model as some had previously suggested.
A New Decade for the iPhone
This makes for two highly reliable sources that are both saying more or less the same thing, although Gurman is being considerably more optimistic in suggesting that the in-display Touch ID sensor could be ready as soon as next year, for Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup.
Gurman otherwise agrees with Kuo that the new fingerprint reader would be embedded in the screen and allow a user to scan their fingerprint “on a large portion of the display” rather than in a specific target area, and — most importantly — it would “work in tandem with the existing Face ID system.”
Sources familiar with Apple’s plans have told Bloomberg that while Apple would like to include the in-screen Touch ID in the 2020 lineup “if testing is successful,” it’s also still possible it could slip into 2021, particularly since Apple has yet to mass produce screens using the technology.
If true, however, this just adds another reason that 2020 is going to be an exciting year for the iPhone, with Apple also expected to debut its first 5G iPhones, adding a new 3D laser camera system, changing up the dimensions, and possibly even adding 120Hz “ProMotion” displays found on the iPad Pro, quite likely with Apple Pencil support as well.