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Tech
News18 » Tech
2-min read

Will Touch ID be Back in The Next iPhone? Patent Filing Suggests Entire Display Will Detect Fingerprints

Since this fingerprint detection tech uses sound transmittance to understand a fingerprint, it could theoretically mean that the entire display could essentially become a fingerprint sensor.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:February 7, 2019, 11:58 AM IST
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Will Touch ID be Back in The Next iPhone? Patent Filing Suggests Entire Display Will Detect Fingerprints
Since this fingerprint detection tech uses sound transmittance to understand a fingerprint, it could theoretically mean that the entire display could essentially become a fingerprint sensor.

Everything comes a full circle, doesn’t it? The Touch ID fingerprint sensor was sidelined from the iPhone line-up since the all-display design of the iPhone X and subsequently the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR. Face ID facial detection feature took over instead, but there are times when we do miss the simplicity of the fingerprint sensor to unlock the iPhone. Despite expectations that the 2018 line-up of iPhones, including the iPhone XS, would include an in-display fingerprint sensor, it didn’t exactly pan out that way. However, a new patent filing by Apple suggests that the 2019 line-up of iPhones, expected this September, could usher in the return of Touch ID, or a similar feature.

The patent titled ‘Acoustic pulse coding for imaging of input surfaces’ has been filed by Apple at the United States Patent and Trademark Office suggests that this will be a sensor that will cover the entire footprint of the display. According to the patent, an array of acoustic transducers are positioned in contact with the display surface. The acoustic transducers convert electrical signals into mechanical energy and/or mechanical energy into electrical signals.

According to the patent, “there will be multiple acoustic transducers disposed to circumscribe a portion of imaging surface.” These then transmit a coded impulse signal, in response to a touch input. The acoustic imaging system includes a number of acoustic transducers that are configured to generate acoustic outputs, such as mechanical waves, acoustic waves, or pulses, into the user input surface in response to a signal from a controller. The controller is configured to provide coded signals such that the acoustic outputs are also coded. Simply put, sound impulses are sent out and come into contact with the user's fingerprint, which then interrupts the impulses and are thereby reflected. These reflections are then deciphered as a fingerprint image, which can then be processed for authenticity.

Since this fingerprint detection tech uses sound transmittance to understand a fingerprint, it could theoretically mean that the entire display could essentially become a fingerprint sensor, something that no commercially available phone has at the moment.

There are advantages of this technique though, over conventional fingerprint sensors seen in phones thus far. First, this sort of implementation is thinner, since the transcuders are placed on the edges and don’t need to share space with other components inside a phone. Secondly, there is the advantage of potentially faster processing of fingerprints. Third, Apple’s parent listing also suggests that this could require less processing power too, which will have a subsequent positive impact on the device’s battery life as well.

The challenge for Apple would be to ensure that the algorithms are in place to detect accidental touches, so as to not unlock the iPhone as you slide it into the trouser pocket, for instance.

Only time will testify as to whether Apple integrates this feature in the next iPhone line-up, presently referred to as the iPhone 11, set for release later this year. But if this full-display fingerprint detection works as well as one would expect it too, this could proactively shoot down any potential comparisons that critics might have about Apple being late to the party with an in-display fingerprint sensor on the iPhones.

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