Apple has been awarded a patent on a technology that could change how — and where — you access the iPhone's fingerprint sensor.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office yesterday (June 12) awarded Apple a patent on a new fingerprint-recognition technology that would allow the company's Touch ID sensor to be used in different ways than it has previously. As spotted by Patently Apple, the fingerprint sensor would be moved to a button, like the iPhone's lock key, allowing Apple to nix the physical home button.
Several reports over the last few months have suggested that Apple is planning to remove the physical home button from its upcoming iPhone 8, the company's 10th-anniversary iPhone. However, there's been talk that the fingerprint sensor could be baked into the screen, a feature that hasn't been available in any other high-end smartphone yet.
To bolster those claims, several reports have surfaced about iPhone 8 models that don't come with an area for a physical home button. Because of that, there's been hope that the iPhone 8 will come with the rumored touchscreen-based sensor. This latest Apple patent, however, could throw some water on those hopes.
According to the patent, Apple would bundle the fingerprint sensor into a button that would sit on the side of the device. The move would allow Apple to offer a display that nearly entirely covers the smartphone's face while still delivering fingerprint-sensing technology. The sensor, however, wouldn't be in as convenient a spot.
For its part, Samsung has been working on in-screen fingerprint-sensing and was rumored to be considering it for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. Before those devices launched, however, Samsung decided to go with a physical sensor due to trouble with the technology. Earlier this month, Samsung told Korean press outlets that it had been working on an in-screen fingerprint sensor for the upcoming Galaxy Note 8. But due to technical and security concerns, the company nixed the effort.
Apple hasn't commented on its plans for an upcoming fingerprint sensor, so it's unknown whether the patent is a sign of things to come or just another patent that will never find its way into a product.
Look for an answer on that this fall when Apple is expected to unveil the new iPhone.