For many months we have been hearing rumors that Apple could implement a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S, in fact we have seen some fairly significant proof for it. There was even code discovered in iOS 7 that refers to the feature.
When you think about the iPhone 5S coming with a fingerprint scanner, however, it actually brings up a lot of questions. This includes just where will it be placed, how it will work, what it will be used for etc.
Luckily we have some possible answers to these questions from Biometric authentication expert Geppy Parziale (Via 9To5Mac). What makes Parziale an expert? Well he has over 15 years of experience in the field working with technologies like pattern recognition, machine vision and of course biometric security.
Parziale brings up that he believes Apple is going to use a touch-based fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S compared to a touch less one that relies on optical lenses and complex lighting systems.
But he fears this will lead to problems…
Constant usage of the sensor starts to destroy the capacitors and over time, the fingerprint sensor stops to work. To avoid this issue, during the manufacturing process, the sensor surface is covered by insulating material (essentially silicon, processed to become an insulating layer) that protects the metallic surface. The touchscreen of your iPhone is manufactured in the same way. However, the coating layer on the fingerprint sensor surface cannot be too thick otherwise the electrons from your body cannot reach the metallic surface of the sensor to generate a fingerprint image. So, this protecting layer is thin and only used to extend the life of a sensor, but its continuous usage will destroy its surface, making the device useless.
It isn’t even constant usage that is the biggest problem here, rather the fact that you touch a whole bunch of things throughout the day which will be deposited on the sensor along with your hands naturally being sweaty and oily.
This is why companies like Motorola, Fujitsu, Siemens, and Samsung have tried to integrate fingerprints in their laptops and handheld devices, but have failed (because of the poor durability of the sensing surface).
Considering Apple will be placing significant importance on the fingerprint scanner if it is indeed implement it will need to stay in a fully functioning state 100% of the time and last at least 3 years (the length of a lot of carrier contracts)… otherwise Apple will have a lot of warranty claims.
At this point we can only hope Apple avoids placing a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S if the technology is not ready or hope they have found a solution.