Apple's 'iPhone 5S' to boast fingerprint sensor embedded in convex sapphire home button

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
When Apple launches its next-generation iPhone, the handset will likely carry a fingerprint sensor embedded into a slightly convex home button made out of sapphire, a major change to current designs.

AuthenTec
Cross-section of AuthenTec's unique fingerprint sensor. | Source: AuthenTec


By using a convex home button instead of the familiar concave design, Apple will be able to make room for the much rumored fingerprint sensor without losing precious internal space, according to well-informed KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

In a research note obtained by AppleInsider, Kuo says Apple is using sapphire because of its resilience to scratches, which will thus protect the fingerprint sensor embedded within.

AuthenTec, the biometric security firm Apple purchased in 2012, uses leading-edge capacitive and RF technologies in its biometric chips, a method that images fingerprints differently than existing optics-based systems. Kuo believes the tech is superior as the sensor is not subject to misreadings due to the build up of detritus or dust.

Further, the analyst sees Apple's current one-button iPhone design as being an optimal fit for a fingerprint reader. With a single home button, consumers are less likely to be confused as to where to place their finger for scanning.

While a convex home button design grants added space for a sensor, the part will become more susceptible to scratches than the concave component Apple has used since the first iPhone debuted in 2007. To protect the sensitive sensor, sapphire glass, a material with a hardness rating second only to diamond, will be used instead of the current plastic composite.

The convex design lends itself nicely to a patent Apple filed for in June describing a method of encapsulating a fingerprint sensor package within a confined space.

Kuo predicts the sensor's inclusion will keep the iPhone well ahead of competing Android and Windows Phone handsets, possible presaging Apple's entry into secure mobile payments. The system could also yield a safer way to access Apple's cloud computing services like iCloud and iTunes.

Earlier on Saturday, a report from AllThingsD cited inside sources as saying the Cupertino, Calif., company will unveil the next-generation iPhone at a Sept. 10 media event.
«13456711

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 211
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member


    Anything's possible, I guess, but this rumor wouldn't seem to work well with current Authentec sensors.


     


    A covering for capacitive or RF is usally only a few microns thick.   Can sapphire slices be made that thin?  Wouldn't carving out a convex version be extremely wasteful, too?


     


    Not to mention that convex sounds like a terrible idea in one's pocket.  A button sticking out is going to get clicked all the time.  That was the whole idea behind the current concave design... to not easily be accidentally clicked.


     


    Also, the home button isn't big enough for a whole-finger scanner, so you'd need to swipe, and a raised button sounds like it would easily get clicked.


     


    I just don't see this whole idea of a scanner in the Home button anyway.  Next to it would make more sense.  Unless the whole idea is that waking up the phone by punching the Home button, fully authenticates the user for the entire time that the phone remains awake.

  • Reply 2 of 211
    I don't think convex would work. Maybe a flat home button would.
  • Reply 3 of 211
    Cue the finger-amputating thieves posts...
  • Reply 4 of 211
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,056member
    kdarling, "That was the whole idea behind the current concave design... to not easily be accidentally clicked."

    I have the feeling that if you accidently click the button that does not detect a fingerprint, it will do nothing.
  • Reply 5 of 211
    In the light of the whole NSA Prism saga, does anyone now have concerns about a device that captures literally everything we say and everywhere we go and now with a fingerprint sensor to personally identify you?

    Just saying...
  • Reply 6 of 211
    A convex home button will create problems with it being inadvertently hit. Although the fingerprint sensor is a great option Apple would be better off finding a way to keep it concave or wait til they can.
  • Reply 7 of 211
    zeromeuszeromeus Posts: 182member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


     


    Also, the home button isn't big enough for a whole-finger scanner, so you'd need to swipe, and a raised button sounds like it would easily get clicked.



    Agree!  A convex button would not be practical as it would be easily clicked. Imagine your phone inside anything getting the home button clicked every few seconds.  That'd kill battery life, shorten the life of the home button significantly, and make your phone easily butt-dialed when in a pocket.

  • Reply 8 of 211
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


    Unless the whole idea is that waking up the phone by punching the Home button, fully authenticates the user for the entire time that the phone remains awake.



    Um, duh?

  • Reply 9 of 211

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Jayfizzle View Post



    A convex home button will create problems with it being inadvertently hit. Although the fingerprint sensor is a great option Apple would be better off finding a way to keep it concave or wait til they can.


    Given that they already have a 'face' detector in the unit (to turn off the screen/touchscreen when near your face when talking on the phone), it seems natural that Apple could use that sensor to disable the home button.  If the phone is in your pocket, it will detect it like a face and ignore the home button.  


     


    I don't know if the 'face' detector sensor is low-enough power to make that practical, ... 

  • Reply 10 of 211
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    My browser doesn't show the question mark in the article headline.

    It will be interesting to see how Kuo's good track record plays out on a seemingly unlikely claim. I feel safe in saying Apple would VERY much want to avoid changing to a convex button because concave is clearly better in a number of ways. BUT... if other rumors are true, that the fingerprint sensor yields have led to concerns of shortages, that's the kind of thing that would force any company's hand: maybe a thicker/different sensor can be delivered in greater numbers. Apple wouldn't like it (and they'd go back to concave later, I'm sure) but they might do it if they HAD to.

    For now, I'm skeptical.
  • Reply 11 of 211
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post



    In the light of the whole NSA Prism saga, does anyone now have concerns about a device that captures literally everything we say and everywhere we go and now with a fingerprint sensor to personally identify you?



    Just saying...


    Is that not the whole idea? You would be more opposed to the idea if you hadn't already accepted massive violations of privacy and security.

  • Reply 12 of 211

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cwoloszynski View Post


    Given that they already have a 'face' detector in the unit (to turn off the screen/touchscreen when near your face when talking on the phone), it seems natural that Apple could use that sensor to disable the home button.  If the phone is in your pocket, it will detect it like a face and ignore the home button.  


     


    I don't know if the 'face' detector sensor is low-enough power to make that practical, ... 



    In fact, there was a comment that Apple plans to use a dedicated new touch sensor on the home button to avoid the issue with the button wearing out.  If they merged these two plans together, seems like they have a great answer.  A new button design that does not fail and one that provides substantially better security for the device.

  • Reply 13 of 211
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by netrox View Post



    kdarling, "That was the whole idea behind the current concave design... to not easily be accidentally clicked."



    I have the feeling that if you accidently click the button that does not detect a fingerprint, it will do nothing.


    Not so optimal for those who choose not to use Fingerprint Authentication.

  • Reply 14 of 211
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,835member


    Sept 10 will be interesting. Given the recent government spying scandal, I think there's going to be a serious discussion of the security and privacy implications of having every iPhone user's fingerprints right there available for the hacking.


     


     


    Edit: s.metcalf beat me to it.

  • Reply 15 of 211

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post


    Not so optimal for those who choose not to use Fingerprint Authentication.



    Should work just as before if you decide to opt out of the additional security of using the fingerprint authentication.  Why would you opt out anyway?  

  • Reply 16 of 211


    The sensor from Authentech does not provide a traditional fingerprint read; it provides a unique biometric that the system can use to confirm is yours.  In fact, it likely only stores a hash of the measurement to compare with.  I doubt the fingerprint details ever get out of the sensor for a hacker to even read.


     


    Besides, anyone who wants  your fingerprint can get it off just about anything you touch.  Red Solo cups (and some beer) and I have your fingerprint.  

  • Reply 17 of 211
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member
    If Kuo gets this right- I'm a full believer in him. If not, I stand by my opinion of him being a blow-hard
  • Reply 18 of 211
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member
    Besides, anyone who wants  your fingerprint can get it off just about anything you touch.  Red Solo cups (and some beer) and I have your fingerprint.  

    Uhh... Then what? You press the solo cup on my iPhone?
  • Reply 19 of 211
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post



    In the light of the whole NSA Prism saga, does anyone now have concerns about a device that captures literally everything we say and everywhere we go and now with a fingerprint sensor to personally identify you?



    Just saying...


     


    First, I think the courts already accept the sound of your voice and other evidence that the phone belongs to you. It's not like phone records are now useless because they can't demonstrate who's on the line. As for unscrupulous government employees doing unethical things (stalking, revenge, illegal business spying) they don't even care about that level of "proof"--if it's your phone, they'll just assume they're tracking you.


     


    Second, if fingerprint data is being transmitted to Apple, then yes (at the moment) Apple may well be forced to share that data with the government, no warranty necessarily required. But there's no obvious reason the fingerprint needs to be transmitted at all (your 4-digit lock code isn't, for instance) and Apple is very good about stating what data they receive. If Apple were to collect fingerprint data for no reason and without telling people, it would be only a matter of time before someone intercepted that data and told the world how to do so: in short, Apple would be caught in the act.


     


    Third, you might worry that the government requires things like fingerprint transmission, always-on microphones/camera, always-on GPS, or whatever, and bars companies from telling anyone about it, even while they publicly call companies on the carpet for collecting too much data. (That sounds way too extreme to be true... for now! But it's an interesting idea.) Maybe you even think they have ways not to get caught. But there are two problems with that: A) any conspiracy that involves too many people fails. For a secret to be kept, it must be kept small--you can't have hardware and software designers and all the big tech companies in on the deal, and expect none of them to blow the whistle. That's just too many people at too many different levels, subcontractors, etc. And B) if you're worried about that, you may as well worry about trackers in things that don't even SAY they have a GPS chip. Like your belt buckle, watch, keyfob, light bulbs, and shoes.

  • Reply 20 of 211
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Could it be that the whole problem here is the (non-english) source is mixing up the difference between convex and concave? It's a difference that vexes many Americans, it's possible that it got lost in the translation here.

    It's interesting that there is no source link either. Is this speculation or fact?

    Also, If it's concave or flat, then there is no need for sapphire. Maybe he just heard they were using sapphire and the rest is his speculation based on that.
Sign In or Register to comment.