Patent Watch: The iPhone’s Biometric Reader Which Only Appears When You Need It

Patent Watch: The iPhone’s Biometric Reader Which Only Appears When You Need It


Back in mid-August, you may remember we reported that Apple had allegedly acquired fingerprint and biometric specialists – Authentec. The report was later confirmed by multiple industry sources, with Apple said to have shelled out close to $356 Million to acquire both the company and its existing resources.

Following on from this acquisition, our friends at PatentlyApple this week highlight a new patent filed by Apple with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office, which could suggest that biometric security measures may make an appearance in Apple’s mobile devices – (such as the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad) – sometime in the future.

Published by the governing body on Tuesday, the site describes the patent as a “two-step unlock screen feature” that “utilizes higher integrated security features via biometrics that could also be used in e-Commerce transactions.”

In Apple’s patent FIGS. 12 and 13 shown below we see a biometric sensor in context with a fingerprint reader which is initially concealed behind a closed window on an iPhone. Upon the iPhone’s activation in a locked state, a lock screen 160 may be displayed requesting a user to slide a finger across the display to unlock the device. The electronic device may request user authentication to access the handheld device. The device may then display an instruction screen requesting that a user provide biometric data via their fingerprint which will be read by the fingerprint reader.

What’s interesting about the patent is how Apple describes the placement of this biometric-enabled reader. Unlike previous concepts, which floated the idea that this sensor would be integrated directly into the iPhone‘s home button, the company instead describes a transparent (or translucent) Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) window, which would likely sit alongside the device’s home button, and could allow for the revealing of components by “causing the electronic window to change opacity, allowing the [needed scanning] components to suddenly appear as from out of nowhere.”

PatentlyApple concludes its report on the patented system by noting the biometric sensor may “be exposed by the opening” and “upon the verification of the user’s identity,” would show the iPhone‘s homescreen.

It’s a neat idea, and definitely something I’d personally like to see Apple implement – given the current passcode unlock is (granted), secure, but has been proven to have its flaws in the past.

Adding a further layer of security for user identity in relation to the iPhone (and iPad) would likely put a lot of users’ minds at rest, while also building the foundations for a more secure data mindset in regards to iOS devices being used to store personal information in the enterprise, going forward.