Apple has patented another potential in-display Touch ID solution. The latest application (which has now been approved) was first filed in 2018, and details a system that uses infrared light to map the ridges of a finger that is pressed against the screen.
The technology would allow Apple to revive Touch ID without compromising the edge-to-edge screen design of the latest iPhones. The Touch ID sensor used to be housed in the Home button that has been phased out in more recent generations.
The new patent is specifically for a shortwave infrared optical imaging solution that would be placed underneath the iPhone display. The solution would send light up through the display, where it would be reflected by the finger of the person it is trying to identify. The reflected light would then get picked up by a photosensitive element before being analyzed for verification.
Infrared light is not visible to the naked eye, so the system would not interfere with the visible light display. The use of infrared also reduces the chances of false positives, since the photosensitive element would not read light from other visible light sources.
Of course, Apple watchers have been forecasting the return of Touch ID to premium iPhones for several years, with the most recent batch of rumors kicking off following a series of unsubstantiated leaks at the tail end of October. However, even more credible prognosticators have predicted that in-display Touch ID would arrive in 2021.
Apple will have many technology options to choose from if that proves to be the case. The company has patented several different in-display Touch ID solutions, including an acoustic imaging system and optical imaging systems that do not rely on infrared light.
Many of Apple’s rivals already offer some form of in-display fingerprint recognition. The COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate Apple’s Touch ID plans, since the company’s flagship Face ID solution has struggled to identify people wearing masks.
November 3, 2020 – by Eric Weiss