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 (opens in new tab) 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.”
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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
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?
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.