Apple changes the world again, propels biometrics into the mainstream with iPhone 5s’ Touch ID

“By adding a fingerprint scanner to its newest mobile phone, Apple Inc is offering a tantalising glimpse of a future where your favourite gadget might become a biometric pass to the workplace, mobile commerce or real-world shopping and events,” Jeremy Wagstaff and Malathi Nayak report for Reuters. “Although Apple’s executives said at Tuesday’s launch that its Touch ID technology embedded into the iPhone 5S’ home button would only provide fingerprint access to the phone and its own online stores, analysts said Apple’s embrace of such technology, called biometrics, would be key to wider adoption. ‘It really propels biometrics into the mainstream,’ said specialist Alan Goode, the UK-based managing director of research consultancy Goode Intelligence.”

“Apple’s move may not have an immediate impact beyond improving the way users unlock their devices and interact with Apple services like iTunes and its App Store. But that is itself a significant step. Apple has more than 500 million iTunes accounts. Anything that increases security and removes steps in the payment process is bound to boost online purchases,” Wagstaff and Nayak report. “Users afraid of using their mobile device to make purchases online or in the real world because they fear it will be stolen or their password seen may feel liberated using a fingerprint, said Michael Chasen, CEO of SocialRadar, which is building location-based mobile applications for social networking. For mobile commerce, he said, that could ‘be the missing piece.'”

Wagstaff and Nayak report, “Beyond the web, Apple could combine the Touch ID with its existing ‘Passbook’ app that stores coupons, tickets to events and boarding passes on an iPhone and allow event organizers and airline companies to validate those documents, said Sebastien Taveau, chief technology officer at California-based Validity Sensors, which makes sensors for other manufacturers. ‘Apple wants to make deals with music and entertainment companies with very strong opinions on digital rights management,’ Taveau said. The fingerprint scanner, when used in transactions with these companies, could ‘reassure all these industries.'”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. Actually, nearly no one has grasped the usefulness of the iPhone fingerprint sensor and I’m not entirely sure why. It seems to simplify quite a number of things, but it’s still being called mostly useless on the iPhone and certainly not considered as useful as having a larger display.

      Once Samsung reverse-engineers the iPhone’s sensor, it will be put it on every Galaxy S smartphone it makes and sold for a lot less and also have its large display, Samsung will still be considered the smartphone industry leader. Apple will again be seen as a doomed company more than it already is.

      1. Totally agree people have no imagination, this is potentially something that will when it becomes popular will be something we think how did we ever do without it. It give us storage and use of almost automatic certification for almost anything you can do which needs authentication, tickets, clubs, events shops, travel you name it it can have an application. Like most things Apple does no one sees the potential until it becomes copied by others. As I have said this is where the iWatch could be very big if Apple can gain the support it will need to take beyond Apple services.

        1. FYI

          The 5S is not the first phone with fingerprint sensor.
          Probably the first that will be widely sold but that’s all.

          Others will probably also follow and add this kind of gadget now the iPhone has it but please… Give credit to those who deserve it.

          Just one example more than two year old (If I remember right, there are others): The Motorola Atrix

          1. No, it’s not the first. The first ones were finicky, prone to errors, easily fooled, had to be used in only 1 orientation, and faded from the limelight very quickly. I don’t know if you’ve read up on how Apple’s works (little to read I know, but what’s there is pretty amazing), but once we have a reliable and nearly foolproof print sensor, then things may change. But what won’t change is for Apple to get credit where credit is due, that’s for sure. Samsung’s copy will more than likely be like the Atrix, since Apple has a boatload of patents on the way they are doing it (inherited when they bought Authentec a year ago). The patents will keep Samsung from copying Apple’s method, just wait and see. \s

          2. Novad, you are far too quick with the superficial comparisons. Companies marketed music players before Apple. Companies marketed “smartphones” before Apple. Companies marketed tablets before Apple. But Apple developed the game changing iPod, iPhone, and iPad and revolutionized consumer electronics. I believe that the same will be true of Apple’s Touch ID sensor and functionality. It is easy to put a standard fingerprint sensor on a device. It is much more difficult to engineer a *robust* fingerprint sensor and cleanly integrate the functionality both in terms of hardware and software. It often takes a little while for new Apple products and capabilities to capture the imagination and interest of the public. Then it becomes one of those proverbial “slap your forehead” moments when the true potential and magic become apparent.

            Android gadgets would not exist were it not for Apple, a Google corporate mole, and at least one major corporate slavish copier. Take a look at the current spectrum of consumer electronics – ultrabooks? smartphones? tablets? “mp3” players? In the last decade, those four segments have been defined by the MacBook Air, iPhone, iPad, and iPod. There is no other company that comes close to Apple in that respect. Why do so many people appear to be desperate to believe that Apple has somehow, suddenly “lost it?”

            I have no doubt that the copiers will continue to do their best to “design” knockoff Apple products while simultaneously undermining Apple in public with FUD. But I don’t expect them to be successful in the long term.

  1. I’m fairly certain a biometric sensor isn’t considered as important as a larger display by industry pundits, analysts and Wall Street. All I keep hearing is that a fingerprint reader is rather useless. Certainly Wall Street doesn’t see it as a game changer that vaults Apple into the forefront of the smartphone industry. I have no idea if a fingerprint sensor will entice consumers to buy an iPhone more than if it had a larger display. Will the enterprise really, really embrace the biometric sensor? These things will take time to evaluate and Wall Street shouldn’t be making snap judgments, but everyone is in a hurry to call it a waste of time and money. I think it’s a nice feature, but I don’t have the insight to tell if it’s something that is really going to be necessary in the future business world.

  2. There’s a bigger picture that Apple is just starting to paint, not just with biometrics, but everything else they’re doing…


    Biosensors – the device knows who you are (and in the future, physical state)
    GPS – the device knows where you are.
    Mapping data, iBeacons – the device knows what’s around you
    Compass – the device knows where you’re headed
    Motion data – the device knows (can guess) what you’re doing
    iOS 7 – usage pattern recognition – the device knows what you do and when you do it. (App usage, calendar, reminders, alarms, etc.)
    Camera and microphone – the device can “sense” the environment

    Siri – using all the above data, the device can learn your habits and intelligently guess your intentions and can give you updates, information or directions automatically.

    When this can all come together we will once again have a true personal digital assistant (PDA) that can actually assist and help when we need it.


    Siri learns that you sometimes have a hard time getting up for work, causing you to be late, so it disables the snooze button and amplifies the alarm.

    You get into your car to head to work… Siri automatically brings up a screen to unlock your door, then connects “iOS in the Car”, displays traffic information, turns to your favorite radio station, etc.

    You’re walking to the bus stop and Siri notices that you aren’t walking fast enough and may miss the bus, so it alerts you to pick up the pace.

    Siri knows you’re in a strange town, and in a bar/club, knows you called a cab to get there, it’s closing time and automatically asks if you would like a cab to take you back to your hotel.

      1. Yes, that was one of the original goals in developing this technology. You can read more about Siri’s A.I. beginnings here…

        It’s this that makes Siri stand out way ahead from what Google offers, which is basically instant query as you speak.

        I believe Apple’s goal is to bring this kind of assistive intelligence to the masses… And in their normal fashion, do it one step at a time until everything can be brought together that makes it immensely useful and functional.

  3. Various reviewers panned the 64 bit chip, faster graphics and large GB models of iPhone, but I see another option for the future use of this power.

    Once we can get a thin plastic ambient light display sheet to take images from the iPhone, a person will be able to review documents that would normally need a large screen.

    The real bonus will be when those plastic display sheets can be interactive to touch commands.

    The day will come.

  4. I’m just thinking how to make an iPad with Touch ID a multiuser device. Also, if you need to access your mail and work on Numbers document, you could in some clever way use anybody’s iPad which means the doc would have your fingerprint embedded on it.

    Mobile banking will be lot easier for sure, now I can’t even do it because my bank sends a text message to me to use it to match another number. It just doesn’t work in many cases.

    It will be interesting to see where the finger/iPhone combination will make the most dent. It will for sure.

    One thing is a big improvement, previously thieves struck a knife to your chest to steal your iPhone, now they will just cut one finger out. Neat.

  5. I wonder how many times I punch in my 4 digits to unlock my iPhone every day; it’s a lot. We’ve seen facial recognition, drawing patterns, recognising pictures, all sorts of ways to unlock your phone. But to me, touching the home button seems perfect. Apple’s purchase of Authentic means that this won’t be copied easily; this isn’t a bog standard fingerprint scanner.

  6. I don’t think Samsung will put a similar fingertip sensor in cheap Android phones. This will fragment Android in two groups, and the one with the sensor will be small. Developers that use the sensor will only write apps for the iPhone

    1. The sensor is stupid, unnecessary, and a privacy nightmare. A better solution would have been to have Apple implement the ability to scan a QR code to fill in the password and/or passwords for any password field. The iphone already had a high res camera that could take pictures of QR codes rather easily. I could generate/regenerate as many of the codes as I need, it wouldn’t be tied to anything biological, and I could use it on ANY site regardless of support for biometrics.

      1. How is having a print out of your password in QR code considered safe? The first rule of passwords – No physical copy! You can’t use a “lifted” fingerprint to fool the sensor – you have to have the finger! You really think it’s easier to get a hold of someone’s finger than it would be to get a copy of your QR codes?

        And how exactly is this a privacy nightmare? The sensor doesn’t store an image of your print that anyone can look at, it stores encrypted digital data that is NEVER decrypted. Every time your fingerprint is scanned that data is encrypted on the chip and compared with the data stored in the A7.

        Furthermore, Apple has iCloud Keychain that can do something similar to what you want… You just have to remember the password to your Keychain and the system can generate (and populate) an extremely secure password for you for every site you need to log into.

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