Apple has patented a new system for bringing its Touch ID fingerprint sensor system directly into the display of a mobile device, AppleInsider reports. The patent illustrates how special sensors called ‘electrostatic lenses’ could be used to capture a clearer image of a fingerprint even through glass, which otherwise blurs the fingerprint images that capacitive sensors are able to capture.
The patent further builds the case that Apple is seeking to embed Touch ID directly into the next iPhone’s display, probably because the company wants to stretch the display across the entire face of the device and do away with the physical home button the currently rests at the bottom of its iPhones’ screens. But the patent filing alone doesn’t mean that Apple is set on this particular method; earlier this year, Apple won a patent for a different system in which a transparent fingerprint sensor would be mounted on top of the iPhone’s display.
Meanwhile, China-based smartphone maker Xiaomi has just announced a new smartphone that features an under-glass, ultrasonic sensor. Because the ultrasonic technology allows for 3D fingerprint imaging, it offers greater accuracy than capacitive sensors; and of course it can scan through glass, and theoretically could be embedded under a device’s display. Apple has always sought to position its iPhone as a top-tier, prestige device, so it would be a surprise if the company stuck with a capacitive sensor for its next flagship phone even after Xiaomi’s innovation. Still, it’s always good to have options, and to cover the intellectual property upon which they rest.
October 4, 2016 – by Alex Perala