Touch ID comeback for iPhones may use under-display IR imaging system

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Apple could add Touch ID back to the iPhone without reintroducing the physical Home button, by taking advantage of infrared light and through-display imaging techniques to avoid ruining the edge-to-edge screen design.




Apple's removal of Touch ID was driven both by the development of Face ID and by a fundamental redesign of the iPhone that removed the Home button from the front of the device. While Apple has reintroduced Touch ID in the iPad Air 4 via the power button, it has resisted doing the same thing on the iPhone.

While Face ID is very useful and highly secure, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made it practically impossible to use due to many people wearing face masks. Devices with Touch ID aren't affected by the pandemic-prompted limitation, except for those who elect to wear gloves.

Outside of the pandemic, there are also reasons for a person to prefer Touch ID over Face ID. For example, if they are not physically capable of angling the iPhone to their face for an Apple Pay transaction due to carrying items, or for situations where they need to unlock an iPhone from their pocket or an enclosed space without pulling the iPhone into the view of other people.

Adding Touch ID back to an iPhone is plausible, but Apple would be looking to add it back to its original location. Doing so without ruining the clean appearance of the display would require some inventive engineering.

The patent seems to be squarely covering a possible Touch ID comeback in the iPhone.
The patent seems to be squarely covering a possible Touch ID comeback in the iPhone.


In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Shortwave infrared optical imaging through an electronic device display," Apple suggests ways to perform fingerprint recognition using light, while working around display elements.

Apple notes that it is possible for an optical imaging system to be placed adjacent to the display, but that can make the bezel thicker than intended by designers. Instead, Apple's optical imaging system is located under the main display stack, which typically consists of an outer protective layer, a touch-sensitive layer, and the display layer itself.

The proposal is that the optical imaging system would transmit shortwave infrared light upward, which would interact with a finger and reflect light back based on the presence of ridges in contact with the screen. The reflected infrared light is then received by a photosensitive element that is in the same optical imaging system, which can then render portions of a fingerprint for analysis.

The use of infrared light makes sense, as this is light that isn't visible to human eyes at all, so wouldn't be distracting or dazzling. Furthermore, as the display would be used to emit visible light and not infrared light, while the photosensitive element would be tuned to detect infrared light, the system would not suffer from false positives or failed reads caused by the different light sources.

The display stack would sit above the imaging system
The display stack would sit above the imaging system


Apple also suggests there could be an opaque mask layer between the photosensitive element and the infrared-emitting light element, and the use of waveguides to funnel light through "inter-pixel regions of the display," namely the bits between each pixel. These inter-pixel regions would allow infrared light to go through both ways, enabling the system to work behind the display.

The patent lists its inventors as Mohammad Yeke Yazdandoost and Giovanni Gozzini, and was originally filed on September 26, 2018.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while the existence of patents indicates areas of interest for Apple's research and development efforts, they don't guarantee the concepts will appear in a future product or service.

The core concept of in-display fingerprint recognition certainly isn't a new idea. Through-display fingerprint recognition is already employed in some forms, such as in Samsung's Galaxy smartphone range, so Apple would be catching up with its rivals in this regard.

That being said, it has previously explored the idea of display-based fingerprint recognition multiple times in the past.

In 2017, it suggested the use of full-screen fingerprint recognition, using capacitive touch panels across the display. Another granted the same year proposed using rows of infrared-emitting and sensing diodes built into the display to perform a similar IR reflection-based fingerprint scan.

Acoustic imaging has also been touted, using piezoelectric transducers to send out acoustic pulses along a substrate and detecting reflections to create the fingerprint image. More recent patents have suggested the use of sub-display optical sensors for fingerprint recognition, including working around opaque components and using limited apertures, as well as other ways to embed sensors behind the display.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    shaminoshamino Posts: 481member
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    cornchip
  • Reply 2 of 9
    shamino said:
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.

    That’s the biggest flaw to the idea of side button Touch ID on iPhone.
    edited November 2020 chaickaRayz2016StrangeDayscornchipjcs2305
  • Reply 3 of 9
    chaickachaicka Posts: 238member
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.

    That’s the biggest flaw to the idea of side button Touch ID on iPhone.
    Indeed. Hardly sees anyone not using a case for their iPhones here. I am among the rare few throughout the years (2020 for iPhone 12 Pro since launch day, 2020 for 3rd year on X, 200x for 5s before I knocked into door handle and dent the chassis) and even so, there are times/models I use with case too (iPhone 4, 5, 5s after dent chassis, 6s, X 1-2nd year).
    edited November 2020
  • Reply 4 of 9
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    shamino said:
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.

    That’s the biggest flaw to the idea of side button Touch ID on iPhone.
    Excellent point.
  • Reply 5 of 9
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    shamino said:
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    It's already been done; all Apple has to do is make it reliable.
    mike1
  • Reply 6 of 9
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,741member
    shamino said:
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.

    That’s the biggest flaw to the idea of side button Touch ID on iPhone.
    Another issue is that most people never touch the button to wake their phone. You only tap the screen.Using the Lock button would be a major step backwards. I'd rather just enter my passcode.

    gilly33
  • Reply 7 of 9
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 374member
    As a former ride-share driver (pandemic) I preferred Face ID. It allowed me to focus on driving when unlocking my phone especially when things got busy. But admittedly Touch ID is more responsive and reliable IMO. 
  • Reply 8 of 9
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,216member
    mike1 said:
    shamino said:
    ... or put the touch sensor under the power/lock button.  Just like Apple did for the iPad Air 4, and some cell phone makers did years ago (e.g. the Motorola Atrix 4G from 2011 had a great fingerprint sensor under its power button.

    There's no need for fancy new technology to put Touch ID on an all-display iPhone.  It's all a matter of what Apple's design team wants and has very little to do with what is technically possible.
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.

    That’s the biggest flaw to the idea of side button Touch ID on iPhone.
    Another issue is that most people never touch the button to wake their phone. You only tap the screen.Using the Lock button would be a major step backwards. I'd rather just enter my passcode.

    There is raise to wake as well.. which I believe is on by default in IOS. I think raise to wake with Touch Id in the power button would be super smooth. Cases however would make this a no go..as has already been mentioned. Sad.. I would consider no case again if could raise to wake with touch Id as I mentioned.

    Although I am sure cases with the side buttons exposed would come pretty fast if this was added as an feature. That is a whole new type of case that Apple could cash in on.. open power button and mute switch case with Magsafe built in.. B)

  • Reply 9 of 9
    The only issue with this is the cases people use on their phones. Virtually every case covers the side button. People use folios for iPads, and I have rarely ever seen someone using their iPad in a case that actually covers the side button.
    And if Apple should release a phone with Touch ID on the lock button, then the case manufacturers would quickly change their cases to not cover the button.  Just like they make changes for every model phone sold in order to deal with changing locations for buttons, cameras and sensors.
    edited November 2020
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