iPhone 13 in-screen Touch ID now reportedly dead

iPhone 13 Pro Touch ID
(Image credit: the Hacker 34)

With the iPhone 13 launch rumored to be just about a month away (or sooner), more tidbits are surfacing about the features Apple may include — and which ones may get left behind. 

The latest report comes from Mark Gurman’s Power on newsletter for Bloomberg, and he reiterates what we’ve heard from other sources: that Apple won’t be including in-screen Touch ID for the new iPhones. It’s one more reason why some may want to wait for the iPhone 14 instead.

As first reported by 9to5Mac, this is how Gurman lays out the bad news:

“While Apple had tested in-screen Touch ID for the next flagship iPhones, it won’t make the cut this year. I believe Apple is all-in on Face ID for its higher-end iPhones and its long-term goal is to implement Face ID in the display itself.”

That’s a great goal to have, but it ignores the more immediate need for Touch ID in the iPhone 13 for this generation. The CDC continues to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. Unfortunately, right now that represents a whooping 95% of the country.

If Gurman’s reporting is accurate, the iPhone 13 will continue to rely on Face ID only through its TrueDepth sensor, which simply does not work when you’re wearing a mask. And unless Apple finds a way to identify people by the eyes and up, iPhone 13 buyers will need to enter their passcode each time they want to use their phone in public while wearing a mask.

If you own an Apple Watch, iOS 14.5 and up enables users to unlock their iPhones with ease while wearing a mask. But there’s lots of iPhone owners who don’t own an Apple Watch 6, Apple Watch SE or earlier Apple Watch.

Gurman goes on to say that Apple will provide one of two options for authentication on the iPhone going forward. For lower-end phones like the upcoming iPhone SE 3, Face ID could be implemented as it is now on current iPhones (notch and all). But for Apple’s flagship phones, Face ID could be built right into the display, such as for the iPhone 14.

Based on the rumors, the iPhone 13 lineup does appear to have a lot of other upgrades in store. These could include a faster and more efficient A15 Bionic processor, big camera upgrades like portrait mode video and astrophotography and improved 5G connectivity. Plus, we should see a smaller notch.

The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will likely be more exciting, as they are expected to feature always-on displays with 120Hz refresh rates. Fortunately, all four new iPhones are tipped to get bigger batteries as well.

It’s just a bummer that Apple may not include Touch ID in the new iPhone 13. I  would have even gladly accepted that functionality integrated into the power button, just like the current iPad Air

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • watzupken
    This is very disappointing indeed. There is no excuse for Apple to say that the technology is not mature, thus, they are not using. It just shows how sluggish they are in changing their design. On one hand, they are trying to win people over, on the other hand, they are dragging their feet on making useful enhancements to their outdated design. I don't need things like LIDAR for my camera, but with the mask that we need to wear nowadays, Apple should be prioritising changes that makes it easier for people to use.