Apple granted patent for fingerprint recognition using entire iPhone display

in iPhone
Rumors that Apple is considering a future without a physical home button on its iPhones have been bolstered by a patent granted to the company on Tuesday -- one that could allow users to authenticate their fingerprint by touching anywhere on the screen.

Originally revealed in an application published in July 2016 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, newly granted U.S. Patent No. 9,582,102 describes an "Electronic device including finger biometric sensor carried by a touch display and related methods." While the current implementation of Touch ID works using a dedicated fingerprint reader and capacitive ring built into the home button, the patent suggests that future fingerprint scanning could be done on the display itself.

The method used to read fingerprints involves the use of multiple layers to make the screen, including one display layer, at least one transparent conductive layer, and another for fingerprint reading. This biometric sensor could include an interconnect layer with "transparent conductive traces," and a "transparent dielectric layer" between the sensing and interconnect layers.

All of these layers would be sandwiched between the display layer at the bottom of the stack and a top "transparent dielectric cover," which the patent suggests could be glass. Though it could be limited to a specific area of the display, it is possible for the sensing area to cover the viewable display area, making the entire screen into a single cohesive fingerprint reader.

The patent notes that adding the ability to scan the fingerprint through the display would speed up authentication, performing it automatically during normal use of the device. Time is saved from users having to perform a "separate authentication step," such as moving a finger to the home button for Touch ID to work, making it more convenient compared to existing biometric systems.

Apple has been working on making the display a fingerprint reader for a while, and has received multiple patents in the field. Earlier this month, Apple was granted a patent from its LuxVue acquisition for an "interactive display panel with IR diodes," using a combination of infrared light emitters and sensors embedded into the display substrate to read the position of the finger, and to read the user's fingerprint.

Another patent published in October for a "Capacitive fingerprint sensor including an electrostatic lens" solves an accuracy issue, with electrostatic lenses preventing a blurring effect of electric fields caused through the separation between the surface the finger touches and the capacitive sensing array.

While today's patent does illustrate an iPhone with a home button in one example drawing, it is rumored that Apple may decide not to include a home button at all in the expected "iPhone 8," due this fall. One analyst claims the anniversary iPhone will use a 5.15-inch OLED display in a similar-sized body to iPhones with a 4.7-inch screen, with the larger display necessitating the button's removal.

Instead of a physical home button, it is suggested the larger display would have a dedicated "function area" towards the bottom edge, which will offer software-based "system controls." While other biometric systems have been touted for inclusion, such as iris and facial recognition, Apple is likely to keep fingerprint recognition as a primary authentication system, embedding it into the display itself.

Apple's latest display-based fingerprint reader patent was filed on June 27, 2015, with Dale R. Setlak credited as the inventor. Setlak is the co-founder of AuthenTec, a biometric company Apple acquired in 2012 for $356 million.


  • Reply 1 of 12
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,645member
     Apple me a patented using the whole screen, but the iPhone 8 will not use the whole screen. It will only use the bottom area. The patent is the cover when the technology becomes cheap enough to implement or may never be used at all. 
  • Reply 2 of 12
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,926member
    That'll be be cool. But I'm concerned with accidental Touch ID approval. Perhaps it'll be part of the dialogue box rather than anywhere. 
  • Reply 3 of 12
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,450member
    Good news, this answers a big question regarding non-home button screens, but how will be access the home screen? 
  • Reply 4 of 12
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,728member
    jungmark said:
    That'll be be cool. But I'm concerned with accidental Touch ID approval. Perhaps it'll be part of the dialogue box rather than anywhere. 
    I'd think you'd be correct with that supposition.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,728member

    spice-boy said:
    Good news, this answers a big question regarding non-home button screens, but how will be access the home screen? 
    "Home Siri and don't spare the horses..."
  • Reply 6 of 12
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    jungmark said:
    That'll be be cool. But I'm concerned with accidental Touch ID approval. Perhaps it'll be part of the dialogue box rather than anywhere. 
    That would be hard to do since you would have to apply pressure(3D Touch) with the stored fingerprint.

    spice-boy said:
    Good news, this answers a big question regarding non-home button screens, but how will be access the home screen? 

    This is the only thing I can't figure out in my head.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    In future it could be used in Apple Watch. 
  • Reply 8 of 12
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,842moderator
    I don't see that capacitive ring on the Touch ID on the new MacBook Pro.  Suggesting that it's used only to signal to the Touch ID sensor when to come to life (which implies energy draw).  The energy draw of the Touch ID sensor against an iPhone battery might be significant enough that you don't want it constantly on, but not a problem for the much bigger battery of a MacBook.

    With that in mind, this new full screen tech might also require that the entire screen, or at least some layer of it, be in a constant on state in order to be ready at any time to read a user's fingerprint.  And this suggests that there's purpose to Apple dedicating a small portion of the iPhone X display, likely as its own separate display, at the bottom of the phone, as a home button and navigation control panel.  Perhaps this will be the only portion of the iPhone X display that will be OLED, which would mitigate concerns over tight supply of OLED display acreage in the supply chain, while providing Samsung less revenue from Apple versus if Apple went with the entire display as an OLED panel.  

    The Touch Panel at the bottom of the iPhone X could then display a ring denoting the position of the Home button, when the phone is on and authentication has been accomplished, along with the Back, browser refresh, or other app-specific controls, like music controls, etc, ala the MacBook Touch Bar.  When the iPhone is off, its Touch Panel would not need to display anything, but might perhaps display date/time/weather, etc.  But its fingerprint sensor layer would remain active so that touching anywhere on it provides unlock authentication to wake the phone.  This is why you want this area to be a small display and not the entire iPhone display; for energy efficiency sake.
    edited February 2017 cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,950member
    and if screen gets cracked?
  • Reply 10 of 12
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,842moderator
    cornchip said:
    and if screen gets cracked?
    Same as now if your Touch ID sensor gets damaged.  In the scenario I describe (comment immediately above yours) the Touch Panel is a separate display, so if it gets cracked, but not the main screen, you would need only replace that display.  And the main screen, in conjunction with the physical power button (on the side of the phone) could be used to turn on the phone and manually enter the password to unlock, then accessibility controls could be used to return to the home screen without needing to use the Home button (virtual home button on the Touch Panel).  So there's a way to access and use the iPhone if the Touch Panel gets damaged in a manner that disallows fingerprint reading.  
    edited March 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 12
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 687member
    Excellent! I love Apple tech, and I'm very pleased they have some way of earning money back from their investments, rather than having them stolen by worthless copy-cats and IP thieves. If there were a competitor to Apple, I assume they would have an actual product roadmap, but so far, I've not noticed any such thing.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    Perhaps the screen entire will have the opportunity to get Touch ID via software update if Apple decides at a future point to include it, but some new iPhones will ship with the dedicated area. Or pressing anywhere on the display is used only for unlocking. Either way I see always-on entire finger print access as a potential security problem.
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