Inside Apple's iPhone 5s: 's' is for 'sensors'

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Pitched as the "most forward thinking" smartphone on the market, Apple's new iPhone 5s is certainly capable of doing a lot of thinking on its own, thanks to a wide array of sensors led by the new Touch ID fingerprint scanner and M7 motion chip.

Touch ID

Touch ID

Arguably the greatest selling point of the new iPhone 5s is the fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button, which Apple has dubbed "Touch ID."

At launch, the capabilities of Touch ID may be limited to securely unlocking the device and authorizing iTunes and App Store purchases. But Apple will be adding to the feature over time, presumably giving developers access as well, which would unlock even more functionality.

The Touch ID sensor is based on technology Apple acquired from AuthenTec, a Florida-based company the iPhone maker purchased last year. In the iPhone 5s, Touch ID packs a 500-pixel-per-inch sensor capable of scanning sub-dermal layers of skin from a variety of angles.



"Your fingerprint is one of the best passwords in the world," said Dan Riccio, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Engineering. "It's always with you, and no two are exactly alike."

Apple has promised that users will be able to scan in up to five individual fingers that will authorize access on the iPhone 5s. Setting up the system requires a user to repeatedly press their finger against the sensor from a variety of angles, allowing the system to accurately get a three-dimensional scan of the surface of their finger.



To aid the Touch ID sensor, Apple has also upgraded the iPhone 5s home button to a sapphire crystal material that is especially resistant to scratches. The exterior of the button also includes a steel detection ring that's necessary to allow the Touch ID sensor to read a fingerprint without requiring the user to swipe their finger over the surface, as other fingerprint sensors operate.

Touch ID


Apple has admitted that its new Touch ID system is not flawless, with limitations related to moisture or other conductive debris that could give false readings. The system may also have trouble identifying fingers with scars, but users are allowed to use any finger they choose and are not just restricted to a thumb or index finger.

Touch ID also has enhanced security by not storing a user's scanned fingerprints on the sensor itself, or saving it remotely to Apple's iCloud. Instead, encrypted fingerprint data is stored on the iPhone 5s A7 system-on-a-chip. That data is also discarded if a device is rebooted or has been left unused for more than 48 hours, at which point users will have to simply reenter their passcode.

M7 motion coprocessor



M7 knows when you're walking, running, or even driving [...] And if your phone hasn't moved in awhile, like when you're asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your batteryThe new M7 "coprocessor" sensor found in the iPhone 5s is an entirely new silicon addition to the iPhone lineup. Exclusive to this year's flagship device, it handles measurements of data from the integrated accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.

By offloading this data to a dedicated processor, Apple can become more efficient. Imagine replacing a pedometer, like a FitBit, and handing all of those duties off to your iPhone 5s ? a device most users would already be carrying in their pocket throughout the day anyhow.

"M7 knows when you're walking, running, or even driving," Apple's official description reads. "For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation, if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you're in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won't ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn't moved in awhile, like when you're asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery."

Schiller M7


Apple has also revealed that a new application, "Nike+ Move," will use the M7 data for pedometer-like tracking. Other third-party applications will also have access to new application programming interfaces in iOS for their own fitness and motion tracking applications.

Details on Apple's M7 coprocessor leaked ahead of the official unveiling of the iPhone 5s. At the time, it was suggested that the chip could assist in photography in some way. Apple has not signaled whether the M7 chip is used to improve the iPhone 5s camera, but there are a number of significant advancements the company did detail.

Upgraded iSight camera

iSight


Apple has boasted that the iPhone's rear facing iSight camera is the world's most popular camera. So it's no surprise that the camera sensor on this year's iPhone 5s has seen its share of upgrades.

Rather than more pixels, this year Apple is pushing the concept of bigger pixels, which the company says will produce an even better picture. To accomplish this, the new iSight lens has a wider f2.2 aperture, which feeds images to a 15 percent larger CMOS sensor.

That means each pixel in an image can have 33 percent more light data, according to Apple. With advanced processing from the A7 chip, Apple says iPhone 5s photos will have greater dynamic range, more details in highlights and shadows, and less overall noise.



The iPhone 5s camera also has a new auto-image-stabilization feature that provides superior pictures in low-light settings. The phone will take up to four quick photos, and intelligently merge them to reduce blurring.

The camera sensor in the iPhone 5s is also aided by a new dual LED flash dubbed "True Tone" by Apple. By measuring color temperature, the iPhone 5s will choose the right ratio of white and amber colors from the dual flash for a more natural looking picture in low-light scenarios.

image


Burst mode is a new software camera feature available in iOS 7, but iPhone 5s owners will be the only ones who can use the functionality to have the system automatically select which pictures it believes are the best.

The new iPhone 5s image sensor is also capable of capturing 120-frame-per-second video, which allows for more fluid slow-motion footage in high definition. The integrated Camera software in iOS even allows users to select a specific section of a recording they want to play back in quarter-speed slow motion when viewing a full clip.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 130
    I thought "S" would mean "security", but OK sensors make more sense.
  • Reply 2 of 130
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,365member

    "Apple has promised that users will be able to scan in up to five individual fingers..."

    "That data is also discarded if a device is rebooted or has been left unused for more than 48 hours..."

     

    Disappointed here. I guess this helps ensure we don't forget the passcode.

  • Reply 3 of 130
    Hard to copy and protected by patents.

    A7 + M7 + 64bit iOS + Touch ID + UI = Apple is 5+ years ahead of the competition and moving further ahead fast...

    I don't think the competition will ever reach this level let alone catchup.
  • Reply 4 of 130
    Tim Cook is moving Appple in a world wide & technological era for the future all this under the hood of a smartphone there has to be a bigger iPhone in the works for next year.
  • Reply 5 of 130
    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

    "That data is also discarded if a device is rebooted or has been left unused for more than 48 hours..."

     

    Whoa, whoa, whoa… what? Where's that written in an official Apple source?

     

    ALL security measures are useless in the face of a DFU; Apple should work on that instead of arbitrarily deleting fingerprint information.

     

    Originally Posted by Debreeze39 View Post

    Tim Cook is moving Appple in a world wide & technological era for the future all this under the hood of a smartphone there has to be a bigger iPhone in the works for next year.

     

    No.

  • Reply 6 of 130
    wigbywigby Posts: 676member

    I've got another sensor to add to the list. Apple needs to add a simple sensor to the left and right sides of the phone.

     

    Why? This would indicate which hand is using the iPhone and that would dynamically tell iOS to shift important and mostly used buttons, icons and controls to that side of the phone.

     

    Why is this important? Then Apple could introduce larger screen iPhones (think 4.7" or possibly larger) that still allow users to continue using iOS all with their dominant thumb. This is how I have been trained to use smartphones and I do not want to stop but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a slightly larger screen either.

     

    Not only would it unlock a whole new sub-class of mobile devices for Apple to sell, it would shut up all of the detractors calling out Apple for ripping off Samsung and making a larger screen device. Apple's device would actually work and that finally justifies the larger screen. They could even take it further by removing the side bezel altogether because the sensors on the side would be in communication with the touch screen so accidental touches would be anticipated.

  • Reply 7 of 130
    debreeze39 wrote: »
    Tim Cook is moving Appple in a world wide & technological era for the future all this under the hood of a smartphone there has to be a bigger iPhone in the works for next year.

    I am so not interested in your other 2 posts. Like, BIG time.
  • Reply 8 of 130
    wigby wrote: »
    I've got another sensor to add to the list. Apple needs to add a simple sensor to the left and right sides of the phone.

    Why? This would indicate which hand is using the iPhone and that would dynamically tell iOS to shift important and mostly used buttons, icons and controls to that side of the phone.

    Why is this important? Then Apple could introduce larger screen iPhones (think 4.7" or possibly larger) that still allow users to continue using iOS all with their dominant thumb. This is how I have been trained to use smartphones and I do not want to stop but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a slightly larger screen either.

    Not only would it unlock a whole new sub-class of mobile devices for Apple to sell, it would shut up all of the detractors calling out Apple for ripping off Samsung and making a larger screen device. Apple's device would actually work and that finally justifies the larger screen. They could even take it further by removing the side bezel altogether because the sensors on the side would be in communication with the touch screen so accidental touches would be anticipated.
    Nice - allow for one-handed operation with a big display. I like.
  • Reply 9 of 130
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,152member

    "That data is also discarded if a device is rebooted or has been left unused for more than 48 hours, at which point users will have to simply reenter their passcode."

     

    I don't remember reading anywhere that the "data is also discarded". This paragraph make it sound like the finger print data will be deleted and you have to reprogram your finger prints to get the feature back. What Apple said was only the passcode will unlock the device if the device rebooted or haven't been unlocked for 48 hours. They did not say the finger print data will be deleted.

  • Reply 10 of 130
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    Whoa, whoa, whoa… what? Where's that written in an official Apple source?

     

    ALL security measures are useless in the face of a DFU; Apple should work on that instead of arbitrarily deleting fingerprint information.

     


    All security measures are actually more useful than ever.  

    This is to prevent very sophisticated hackers from ever getting to the data.

     

    *This data will self-destruct in 48 hours*

     

    If the device was not lost or stolen, it's easy to put back.

  • Reply 11 of 130
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member
    Am i misunderstanding something here?

    Somebody can steal an iPhone and just wait 48 hours, and then the Touch ID is useless because it's been erased?
  • Reply 12 of 130
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    apple ][ wrote: »
    Am i misunderstanding something here?

    Somebody can steal an iPhone and just wait 48 hours, and then the Touch ID is useless because it's been erased?

    What's even better, you can use your 5s as a hand-grenade:

    1. Configure fingerprint access
    2. Wait 48 hours
    3. Throw phone at target
    4. BOOM!!! Phone explodes as it erases your secure fingerprint data for you.

    A very handy feature!
  • Reply 13 of 130
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by acatomic View Post



    I thought "S" would mean "security", but OK sensors make more sense.

     

    Well some people think the "S" stands for "Suck on this Samsung."  Sometimes these models numbers don't mean a thing other than to differentiate them.  Personally, I think it's kind of silly, but it's just their marketing and that's all it really is.  Just buy the one you can afford and enjoy it.

  • Reply 14 of 130
    Whoa, whoa, whoa… what? Where's that written in an official Apple source?

    ALL security measures are useless in the face of a DFU; Apple should work on that instead of arbitrarily deleting fingerprint information.


    No.
    Actually, a DFU won't bypass the security. If your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch are stolen and someone DFUs the device, they will be met with signing In with the users apple id an password.

    "But I want to sell my phone, now what?"

    When you restore your iPhone (erase all content and settings) you are in essence logging out of iCloud and will be prompted to enter your password first. This is the same if someone tries to go into your settings and turn off iCloud manually.
  • Reply 15 of 130
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Debreeze39 View Post



    Tim Cook is moving Appple in a world wide & technological era for the future all this under the hood of a smartphone there has to be a bigger iPhone in the works for next year.

    I am just looking forward to a 64bit A7 iPad with Touch ID, but a new 64bit A7 desktop class portable with Touch ID would be sweet...

    Imagine 24-48hour battery life... sweet...  (I can dream right?)

     

    Note that it would be reasonably easy to rework OS X applications for an A7 portable.  Thanks to the superb Cocoa/Touch frameworks.

     

    OK.  Since we're dreaming, how about a 64bit A7 TV with wicked OpenGL ES 3 graphics for gaming...  OMG !!

     

    We are living in interesting time folks...  Go Apple... Go, Go, Go...

  • Reply 16 of 130
    My understanding is that the in-memory version of the fingerprint is discarded, but once you authenticate with your passcode, it can decrypt the fingerprint data, you won't have to re-program.

    (Fingerprints are most likely not sitting in memory, just somehow accessible in that specific segment of the A7)
  • Reply 17 of 130
    herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,207member
    debreeze39 wrote: »
    Tim Cook is moving Appple in a world wide & technological era for the future all this under the hood of a smartphone there has to be a bigger iPhone in the works for next year.
    "S" for small... ;)

    Its bothers me too, i am replacing my 4s for a nexus 5 in october. I would have got the nexus 4 but its sold out ahead of the new model. I think the 5s is great, its just too small for me.

    Also on my shopping list are one ipad mini 2, one ipad 5 and a 21.5" imac once its refresh.
  • Reply 18 of 130
    I don't see why the 48 hour thing is even an issue. Apple must have data on the frequency on when people go into their phone.

    Who here, since the time you have had your iPhone, has refrained from going into it for 24 hours, let alone 48?
  • Reply 19 of 130
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post



    Am i misunderstanding something here?



    Somebody can steal an iPhone and just wait 48 hours, and then the Touch ID is useless because it's been erased?

     

    If someone steals the new iPhones, they will need the owners iCloud account to ever get into it, and they cannot turn off GPS tracking.

    The 48hour is to prevent very sophisticated hackers like governments from ever getting to the fingerprint data.

     

    Mission Impossible technology anyone?  Or is it Star Trek? LOL

  • Reply 20 of 130
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by fruitstandninja View Post



    I don't see why the 48 hour thing is even an issue. Apple must have data on the frequency on when people go into their phone.



    Who here, since the time you have had your iPhone, has refrained from going into it for 24 hours, let alone 48?

    The iPhone is not only for ordinary people.

    It is for Soldiers, Agents, Government officials, corporate CEOs etc...

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