Apple Could Turn the Entire iPhone Screen Into a Fingerprint Reader

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 25, 2021

Apple has just been issued a patent approval titled “Methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces” that uses similar optical imaging systems to those we presented a month ago pertaining to the next gen of the Apple Watch. These acoustic systems allow for the faithful tomographic reconstruction of even tiny fingertip crevices, exactly like ultrasonic fingerprint sensors do. The difference is that with Apple’s acoustic wave generation and reception units, the need to place your finger on a specific location is alleviated.

Based on where your finger is placed, the system would send a targeted wave, and then an algorithm-backed unit would calculate the corrective inductance. By placing acoustic transducers on all four edges of the screen, the whole idea becomes theoretically viable, using a combination of reflected, diffracted, and transmitted waves to create high fidelity 3D models of your fingertips, or anything really. For example, Apple says that a system like this could be used for the determination of the pressing force, the user’s respiration rate, blood oxygenation, heart rate, or the generation of 3D models for the user’s cheek or ear. This will obviously be something far greater than a new and more secure TouchID.


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Now, Apple’s FaceID is a very secure method of user authentication, which involves a system of 3D cameras that map your face. While FaceID can’t be tricked by spoofed faces, it still isn’t perfect for everyone. For example, it isn’t as snappy as fingerprint sensors are, and it isn’t as easy to use either. This means that at least offering the choice of an all-screen TouchID would be a fantastic marketing advantage over the stifling competition. This could really be that edge that Apple is desperately looking for these days, but of course, for now, it’s only a granted patent and nothing more.

As we have pointed out in the Apple Watch 5 story, Apple has experts in imaging technology working on the development of these systems, and signing these patents. These people know how to materialize acoustic imaging systems that are based on the use of pulses or waves, and how to combine multiple planar projections to assemble a 3D model. In theory, this can be done, and if there’s one company that can do it right now, that’s Apple. Let’s just hope that they will be able to put something out there that works well enough soon.

Are you excited with the prospect of having an all-screen TouchID, or would you still prefer to use the FaceID system? Let us know where you stand in the comments section below, or on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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