The fingerprint reader has been AWOL on flagship Apple smartphones since 2017’s iPhone X. True, Touch ID still appears on the cheaper iPhone SE, but that's an older design. Face ID has become Apple’s default method of authentication.
But according to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple will be revisiting Touch ID in the iPhone 13, now that it’s possible to include a fingerprint scanner without adding to the frame or incorporating an extra bump to the back. The report says that Apple will be adding an in-screen fingerprint reader to the iPhone 13, following in a path blazed by Android handsets.
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While early in-screen fingerprint readers were often flakey, the technology has matured enough to rival regular scanners, and Bloomberg’s sources state that it might be faster than Face ID for some users. Face ID would still be included on the iPhone 13 (apparently with a smaller footprint), giving you two methods of proving your identity as well as keeping the various augmented reality and selfie features.
Why now? Well, not only does Apple tend to adopt new technologies in its handsets when they’re mature enough to work without hassle (there’s a reason we’re yet to see the long rumored iPhone Flip), but the time is arguably right for the fingerprint’s return. 2020 unexpectedly saw the mass adoption of face mask wearing around the world, and facial recognition software struggled to identify people with mouths and noses covered. While early signs look good for our ability to live with coronavirus in 2021 (either through vaccination or palliative treatments) we may still need some kind of face coverings for some time to come — especially in the colder winter months.
Elsewhere, the report states that the iPhone 13 is likely to be an iterative update, with engineers apparently viewing it as an ‘S’ version of the handset, so don’t expect major changes from the iPhone 12. That said, we’ve previously heard it will be a little thicker, and that — combined with Apple’s fancy new battery tech that allows cells to be thinner — gives us hope that the iPhone 12's lackluster battery life will be addressed in the new version.
Speaking of batteries, Bloomberg also addresses the rumor that at least one iPhone 13 model will be portless, acknowledging that the company has “discussed” it. No confirmation is given either way, however.
We’re still some way off the iPhone 13 emerging, with the company apparently back to its usual September schedule this year. That said, rumors suggest that we may see a new iPhone SE model before then, so watch this space.