Once again, a new pair of patents suggests that Apple isn’t quite done with fingerprint recognition. The patents specifically concern acoustic imaging tech that would turn the entire mobile screen into a biometric sensor.
So how does it work? Once you sift through the technical jargon, the concept is essentially sonar for the iPhone. When a user presses their finger to the screen, the phone would use acoustic transducers to detect ridges, map the points of contact, and create a fingerprint image that could be used for authentication.
The proposed tech would allow Apple to reintroduce Touch ID without the need for a dedicated reader on the face of the phone, freeing up more real estate for the screen itself. It could also be calibrated for other biometric modalities, such as heart rate, palm recognition, or ear recognition (seriously), as well as non-biometric inputs like stylus pressure and location.
While Apple has maintained its focus on Face ID, this is not the first time the company has indicated that it still has plans for Touch ID. An August patent publication detailed plans for a fingerprint reader that would be placed under the screen, while a January patent incorporated fingerprint recognition into a 3D facial recognition system.
Of course, we don’t know which options Apple will choose to put into production, but it’s clear that the company is still highly concerned with the form factor of its phones. The new patents would seem to validate a recent report from ABI Research, which posited that in-display biometrics was a better option than folding for smartphone manufacturers looking to maximize screen size.