New iPhone may have fingerprint scanner


A fingerprint scanner could be the key ingredient in Apple’s upcoming iPhone, potentially providing a major security enhancement.

A string of code from a developer release of Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system iOS7 hints at “a fingerprint that changes colour during the setup process.”

When iOS7 beta 4 was released this week, software developer Hamza Sood discovered a folder within the software called “BiometricKitUI”. This is likely to be the user interface for a fingerprint scanner set to launch with Apple’s next-generation smartphone, which is widely expected to be released in September as the iPhone 5S.

Apple acquired AuthenTec, a firm that specialises in fingerprint-scanning technology, for US$356 million in July last year, fuelling speculation of finger-scanning technology at the time.

Just two weeks ago, Apple filed a patent for a fingerprint sensor embedded within the touchscreen display, but the newly-discovered description of the interface notes that a user will be able to swipe the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone’s home button.

Whether the fingerprint scanner is embedded within the touchscreen or the home button, it would likely offer enhanced security for locking and unlocking the device, as well as the possible authentication of payments for mobile payment systems. Apple has so far resisted including near-field communications (NFC) chips on its devices. NFC provides an alternative means for authenticated mobile payment.

There is also the potential to perform different functions on the phone – such as call different contacts or launch different apps – using different fingers.

An unnamed source familiar with the plans told 9to5 Mac that the user interface has been completed and focuses on unlocking the phone.

Fingerprint scanners have been used in consumer technology devices before, though not widely and with limited success. Motorola’s Atrix 4G featured a fingerprint sensor in 2011, but many complained at the time that it failed to recognise their fingerprint. It also exists on numerous Windows laptops.

If the speculation turns out to be true, the 5S will be the first ‘S’ model iPhone to feature a major hardware update. Previous ‘S’ models have featured minor tweaks to internal hardware such as improvements to battery life and processor speed in the 3GS, as well as updates to software such as Siri in the 4S.

n addition to fingerprint scanners in the iPhone 5S, Apple may also introduce a budget model iPhone made out of plastic instead of aluminium and glass. An image circulating the web this week shows retail boxes for the device with “iPhone 5C” written on the side, while self-proclaimed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson of Victoria released photos purporting to be the plastic shells of the cheaper iPhone earlier this month.

An unnamed source told Business Insider that the plastic model would be called the 5C, with C standing for colour, suggesting the device will come in multiple colours. There are also already iPhone 5C covers listed for sale on Amazo from California company Elago.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said last week at the company’s earnings report that Apple is working on new “amazing products” that would be introduced in the second half of 2013 and throughout 2014.