New tech bonds fingerprint sensors under Gorilla Glass, could allow button-free iPhones

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited July 2015
Security technology firm Sonavation on Tuesday announced a technology allowing ultrasonic fingerprint sensors to be embedded under Corning Gorilla Glass, potentially paving the way for anticipated iPhone designs without home buttons.




Such sensors are bonded directly to the display. Sonavation claimed that its 3D scanning technology can remain accurate in all situations, even if a finger is moist, oily, or dirty.

In June, AppleInsider learned that Apple is working on eliminating the home button from future iPhones, although the first models with that technology are unlikely to ship until 2017 at the very earliest. The key obstacle will be replacing the Touch ID sensor embedded in the button with equivalent fingerprint detection embedded in the screen.

Indeed Apple has filed for multiple patents related to the concept, including one covering the detection of multiple fingerprints simultaneously. The company is also working on chips that merge separate touch and display driver functions, but it could want to turn to a company like Sonavation to create a complete package.

There are other potential barriers as well however, such as whether the technology will work with sapphire if Apple chooses to switch away from Gorilla Glass. There's also the question of how to replace iOS commands that currently rely on a home button, though Force Touch and multi-finger gestures could provide a relatively simple solution.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,663member
    Doing away with the home button would likely require that the "M" series chip Apple uses to detect and store sensor data when the phone is in standby be used for this. I imagine the sensor data obtained would need to be reviewed as a fingerprint right after Force Touch is used, and before the phone is unlocked, and everything is turned on. Then, the normal channel for fingerprints would be used, which comes on after the phone is turned on.

    I say this because it's really difficult to get the home button pressed while in a pocket, but a Force Press on the entire screen would occur with frequency when in that pocket. Some method would need to be in place to avoid turning the phone on constantly while waiting for a fingerprint. As the "M" chip is on all the time for the purpose of detecting sensor data, there would be little extra battery power needed for this function.
  • Reply 2 of 12

    ...or paving the way for Touch ID without sapphire.

  • Reply 3 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    They aren't going to get rid of the home button. Having a button with a distinct purpose is important to preventing accidental activation. Also, the most obvious problems: Not everyone has all of their fingers. There are amputees in this world. Also, thanks to our existing privacy and security laws, I will never buy a phone that relies completely on a fingerprint to unlock it. To use Apple Pay after the phone has already been unlocked with a password, fine.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Indeed Apple has filed for multiple patents related to the concept, including one covering the detection of multiple fingerprints simultaneously. The company is also working on chips that merge separate touch and display driver functions, but it could want to turn to a company like Sonavation to create a complete package.

    Apple won't use anyone else's tech unless it's the best tech, and Apple totally OWNS the tech. It's all about Apple delivering the best solution AND delivering it exclusively.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member

    I think Apple would like to remove the home button if it can still maintain the needed level of elegance. The top lock button or even the volume buttons can be used in conjunction to wake it up for the needed inputs. Just removing the physical home button saves huge amounts of manufacturing costs. The parts and assembly steps surely add up.

     

    Perhaps a few generations away.

  • Reply 6 of 12
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,259member
    eightzero wrote: »
    I think Apple would like to remove the home button if it can still maintain the needed level of elegance. The top lock button or even the volume buttons can be used in conjunction to wake it up for the needed inputs. Just removing the physical home button saves huge amounts of manufacturing costs. The parts and assembly steps surely add up.

    Perhaps a few generations away.

    Wrong on all thoughts. It saves no more time and money. Mechanical assembly parts are less costly than IC design parts.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    t-bonet-bone Posts: 20member
    We're also forgetting that the visually impaired rely on the physical button to orient themselves to the device. If the Home button goes away, every one of us, including those without visual impairment, will now need to see the device to orient themselves before using it.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,980member
    Indeed Apple has filed for multiple patents related to the concept, including one covering the detection of multiple fingerprints simultaneously. The company is also working on chips that merge separate touch and display driver functions, but it could want to turn to a company like Sonavation to create a complete package.

    Apple won't use anyone else's tech unless it's the best tech, and Apple totally OWNS the tech. It's all about Apple delivering the best solution AND delivering it exclusively.

    Sure they do. Just ask 2011 MBP owners.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post





    Wrong on all thoughts. It saves no more time and money. Mechanical assembly parts are less costly than IC design parts.



    I disagree, and believe you are wrong.

  • Reply 10 of 12
    raptoroo7raptoroo7 Posts: 138member
    Is Apple going to buy this company or is this tech going to be available to any company who wants to use it. I think this could benefit all companies looking to offer fingerprint sensors without having add them in buttons or backs of phones.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    mainyehcmainyehc Posts: 85member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post





    Wrong on all thoughts. It saves no more time and money. Mechanical assembly parts are less costly than IC design parts.



    Well… what about repair costs when people show up at the Genius Bar with broken home buttons? What about customer satisfaction? Apple is known for abolishing all things mechanical (like the original scroll wheel, the clickwheel, the mouse ball and the mighty mouse scroll ball, floppy and optical drives, just to name a few) regardless of the upfront cost, as long as the product becomes more elegant… Getting rid of that button, iconic as it may be, would be textbook Ive/Apple, as you do not really need to blind-press it like, ever.

     

    Oh, also… you seem to be forgetting that Apple would probably be using a fully integrated solution. The price increase to the screen/digitizer assembly would be minimal, especially after the second or third revision (I mean, other companies would kill for Apple's economies of scale), and there would be one less part, fewer screws and cabling, etc. Going by your “bean counter” logic, Apple would have been better served by keeping the home button and TouchID sensor separate, and add an off-center, unsightly gash on the casing instead, like their competitors did for years with their laptops… Better yet, they could've put it on the back for easier access like Motorola and HTC did! /s

     

    Besides, with force touch, it's not like users wouldn't receive some measure of haptic feedback. I haven't even laid my eyes on an Apple Watch yet, let alone touched one, but came away very impressed by the new haptic trackpads after trying them at a store; their “clickyness” is eerily realistic! I think eightzero nailed it. A deliberate press on the former button's general vicinity could also trigger it and unlock the phone immediately like the home button/TouchID already does now (while a press inside a pocket or purse, much like a press on the Apple Watch without direct skin contact or while underwater, would be promptly ignored) and, like he mentioned and for less proficient users, a press on the lock button would reveal a circular outline on the lock screen, a “virtual home button” of sorts.

     

    As for going from an app to the home screen or triggering other gestures like Siri and the task switcher, well… You would only have to press, double-press or long-press the area of the button through force touch. Pretty straightforward, no?

     

    While I'm at it, and since t-bone mentioned accessibility, why not just turn the whole lower portion of the screen into a virtual home button (more like “home area”) with full-blown fingerprint recognition? The only disadvantage would be precluding the lower menu from having extended attributes/menu contents like on the Apple Watch, but I don't really see Apple adding that much complexity on such spacious screens anyway. And for those users who can't perform a force touch, well, they probably couldn't press the home button in the first place anyway, and it's not unlike the virtual, on-screen, draggable and tappable home button had to be scrapped (if anything, having a larger and level fingerprint scanning area would make it *easier* for those users to take advantage of TouchID)… Force touch would just be complimentary and, in fact, would actually benefit blind people and people with some motor impairment (but enough muscular strength for presses) immensely by increasing the target area.

     

    Also, it would be far more ergonomic to use both for left- and right-handed people, as you could just rotate your thumb and press your preferred corner instead of rotating and folding it half-way to hit the home button… That would be a case of the iPhone fitting you and not the other way around. So, no matter how you spin it, it always sounds like a great idea!

  • Reply 12 of 12
    tenlytenly Posts: 707member
    They aren't going to get rid of the home button. Having a button with a distinct purpose is important to preventing accidental activation. Also, the most obvious problems: Not everyone has all of their fingers. There are amputees in this world. Also, thanks to our existing privacy and security laws, I will never buy a phone that relies completely on a fingerprint to unlock it. To use Apple Pay after the phone has already been unlocked with a password, fine.

    To SpamSandwich and Tbone:
    Are you both so unimaginative and literal that you think the comments you've posted are real show stoppers? C'mon...think a bit before you post. @spamsandwhich - today you have a home button that you can press to wake up your phone and if you've enabled it, you can leave your finger or thumb there for an extra 1/4 second to unlock it with your fingerprint. If you don't want to use the fingerprint sensor - you don't have to. What makes you think that will change if they remove the home button??? Nowhere in the article does it say you won't be able to use a passcode anymore! You just made that up! Of course you'll still be able to use a passcode. All that will change is the way you wake up your phone - and if you elect to use your fingerprint, the scanner will be target on the screen. So instead of pressing the home button and entering your passcode, you'll do a force touch on the screen - AND THEN ENTER YOUR PASSCODE. Sheesh. You completely fabricated the idea that the passcode would be eliminated if the home button is eliminated and then proceeded to explain how that would be unacceptable to you! Well, duh! It would be unacceptable to a lot of people - and that's why it will never happen. I still don't know what made you think that the passcode entry requires the physical button. Kind of ridiculous to assume that, don't you think?

    And @tbone - If they remove the home button there will be other ways to figure out the orientation of the device without looking at it. The location of the power or volume buttons or the small slit for the earpiece would be sufficient for me - but if Apple thinks that something more is required for "accessibility", then the phone that comes out with no home button will have a tactile feature added to make it easy to tell. It could be a bump, ridge or detent anywhere on the front, sides, top, bottom or back of the device. Perhaps they'll add more than one. Your assumption is that when the home button is removed, nothing else will change! I don't get that. I don't understand why any reasonably intelligent person would make that assumption.
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