iPhone 13 will reportedly skip Touch ID — and that would be bad

iPhone 13 with Touch ID concept
(Image credit: Redmond Pie)

Early rumors have suggested that the iPhone 13 would be the first non-SE iPhone to have Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint authentication since the iPhone 8. But unfortunately it looks like the feature won’t be ready to debut this September. 

A report from Bloomberg claims that while Apple has been experimenting with the kind of in-screen fingerprint readers that have become commonplace on Android, “that feature will likely not appear on this generation.” 

That’s not only disappointing for those who simply prefer using their fingerprint. While we all hoped the coronavirus pandemic would be firmly on the decline by this stage, there are worrying signs that the Delta variant could ensure our list of the best face masks becomes relevant again — and that spells trouble for Face ID. 

The trouble with masks 

face masks

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Though people were no doubt sceptical when the iPhone X dropped the Touch ID-enabled Home button and introduced Face ID in its place, critics were quickly won over by how well Apple’s facial authentication worked. It has only got better over time, and now Touch ID is present on just the iPhone SE and a lot of the iPad range.

But then coronavirus came along, and the need to wear masks in public became paramount. It quickly became apparent that Face ID would struggle to recognize people if their mouth and nose were covered. While there are workarounds to use Face ID as a mask wearer, it’s still an inconsistent experience.

While the vaccine rollout has put the world in a far better place than it was this time a year ago, there are signs that the Delta variant is pushing things backwards. A number of areas including Kansas City and Los Angeles have stated that mandatory mask wearing is set to make a comeback. 

Outside of the U.S., where Apple sells plenty of iPhones, masks never really left. Where I am, in London (where Delta cases are surging), all restrictions are theoretically set to be lifted tomorrow (July 19), but public transport within the city will still require mask wearing as a condition of use. For iPhone users wanting to take the London Underground subway system, the choice is between reducing security by disabling Face ID, or risking their personal safety by briefly removing the mask. Neither are hugely palatable choices. 

Still hope for Touch ID on iPhone 13?

iPhone 13 Pro Touch ID

(Image credit: the Hacker 34)

Of course, there is still hope that Apple will include an alternative to Face ID this year. Bloomberg only reported that the feature will “likely” not appear this year, and even then the article is specifically referring to the under-screen Touch ID that Apple is supposedly testing. 

The recent iPad Air has Touch ID embedded in the lock button. So that’s something Apple  could bring to iPhones, allowing the fingerprint scanner to return without the Home button or under-display technology.

Hopefully that will be the case. Not only would more ways of unlocking the iPhone objectively be a good thing, but by highlighting this as a COVID-19-specific measure, Apple would be doing its bit to remind people that the pandemic sadly isn’t over, and everyone needs to stay vigilant to ensure the nightmare doesn’t stretch on into 2023.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.

  • aTomek
    This is really sad. That was the single, most important feature to me which would actually made me switch from Android ecosystem to Apple. Apple SE is too clunky for me. It is really weird why Apple/Samsung are pushing for under screen sensors, as dedicated one (on side of the phone) was much easier and intuitive to use. I would switch to IPhone 13 anyway if it offers any kind of TouchID.