We’ve been asking for Touch ID under the display of iPhones for years. But now, thanks to a recently granted patent, I think we could see it in the iPhone 15 Pro.
Spotted in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s site by Patently Apple, this seems to confirm the years long work of the company to get a working system (seriously, the team’s been trying to do it since at least 2013. And not only that, but it seems to line up with Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction that we may see this technology emerge this year.
So allow me to stick on my tinfoil hat, explain what the patent actually grants, and conspire (maybe wildly) about why I predict you’ll see this feature appear sooner rather than later.
What’s the patent?
Granted to Apple yesterday, patent US 11600103 B2 covers an optical imaging system that is placed behind (or integrated within) an electronic device’s display — using “shortwave infrared” technology.
Going into specifics, the optical imaging system produces a flood illumination capture of an object (your finger or thumb) in the shortwave infrared band, while taking into account any signs of “surface reflection” or “subsurface reflections.”
The former of these relates to any outside light sources that may alter or confuse more typical systems (a ray of sunlight for example), and the subsurface relates to whether said light ray may cause refractions off of components in and around the imaging system.
That means a far more accurate reading, and thanks to the use of “shortwave infrared light,” you can do far more stuff with it — key example use cases include establishing whether a user’s finger is wet or dry, checking your pulse, seeing the vein pattern in your finger, and determining blood oxygenation.
So, not only could this expanded feature set be used for a more secure fingerprint reading (checking your vein pattern alongside the skin-level fingerprint), but you could see this be used to expand the kinds of readings you give the Apple Health and Apple Fitness apps, for those who do not have the likes of an Apple Watch Ultra.
There’s a reason why I said specifically iPhone 15 Pro. I think that much like the A17 Bionic and the Dynamic Island, under display Touch ID is a feature that we’ll see start on Pro iPhones — moving to the standard models in the future.
And it’s worth reiterating that this is a prediction based on the patent that has been granted. We’ve seen times in the past where Apple patents granted a few months out turn into features pretty quickly.
It’s a bit late in terms of being a fix to the frustrations of trying to use Face ID with a mask on, which was particularly prevalent in the height of the pandemic we’ve been to. But for those (like me) who still get a little nervous on public transport and in busy shops, or you just don’t want to use facial recognition technology, this is an exciting workaround.