Apple is clearly thinking about the possibility of eliminating the Home Button built into its iPhone 8 for something virtual.
Yet another Apple patent has surfaced suggesting the company is thinking seriously about removing the Home Button in favor of a virtual button in its upcoming iPhone. This time around, the patent application, discovered by AppleInsider, discusses a technology called "acoustic imaging system architecture."
According to the patent application, the technology would replace a traditional fingerprint sensor with transducers that sit beneath the screen. Those transducers create sound waves that can travel through a smartphone display. When a finger is placed on the screen, the sound waves come into contact with it. A secondary component described in the patent application analyzes reflections, attentuation, and diffraction in the sound waves and matches that against approved fingerprints.
If everything matches, the fingerprint sensor's requested function is allowed and you can make a payment via Apple Pay, unlock the device, and more. If the sound information doesn't match, you're out of luck.
Apple is said to be working on a new high-end handset called the iPhone 8 or iPhone X. The device, which should launch later this year, could come with a screen that entirely covers its face. By doing so, the screen would replace the area where the physical Home Button has lived and require Apple to move its fingerprint sensor somewhere else.
But unlike Samsung, which is believed to be planning a physical fingerprint sensor on the back of its upcoming Galaxy S8, Apple is rumored to be planning a virtual home button that can provide all the features available now in its Touch ID fingerprint sensor button.
Exactly how Apple might make its virtual home button a reality, however, is unclear. While the latest patent application sounds interesting, it's the latest in a string of virtual home button patents the company has filed. Those patents use various technologies to achieve the same result: allowing you to press down on the iPhone's screen to read your fingerprint.
Apple, of course, has remained silent on its plans and hasn't provided a hint at what the future of its fingerprint-sensing technology might look like. But if the mounting rumors are true, look for a new iPhone design concept later this year.