iphone fingerprint scanner
July 30, 2013

Will The New iPhone Have Fingerprint Security?

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Apple may be ready to install a fingerprint sensor in the upcoming iteration of their wildly popular iPhone. As eager developers jumped into the latest beta build of iOS 7, Apple's mobile operating system, some noticed a few lines of code specifically set in place for a biometric fingerprint sensor.

British developer Hamza Sood first noticed the code for the sensor which may be built into the home button of the next iPhone.  Speaking to 9 to 5 Mac, another Apple source said the scanning system is complete and could function very much like it is described in the code.

Apple has said they'll release iOS 7 sometime this fall, suggesting the new iPhone won't be too far behind. One of the new features announced for iOS 7 at this year's developer conference is also focused on security and allows users to store secure and encrypted passwords in the cloud. This, combined with a biometric sensor, could have huge ramifications for passwords and security.

Last July, Apple purchased security firm AuthenTec, a company which owns more than 200 patents covering a variety of security measures such as secure networking technologies, sensor packaging and fingerprint scanners. It was the latter patents which perked up the ears of the media and other Apple fans. This acquisition immediately sparked speculation about the possibility of future hardware with embedded biometric sensors.

Not long after, analysts and other rumor sources began claiming this year's smartphone model - widely expected to be called the iPhone 5S - would arrive with a sensor that can only be unlocked by the owner's fingerprint. Currently, the iPhone can only be locked with a password. Earlier this year, it was discovered an iPhone's lock screen could be bypassed with a complicated series of button pushing and key taps, a bug which Apple quickly patched with new software.

According to 9 to 5 Mac, iOS 7 beta 4 contains the code needed to power a biometric sensor. In a folder labeled "BiometricKitUI," the way this button acts and behaves is briefly described. This code suggests the user should be able to swipe their thumb across the home button on the front of the iPhone to unlock their phone. The code also contains the text: "Photo of a person holding an iPhone with their left hand while touching the Home button with their thumb," and "A fingerprint that changes color during the setup process."

Sood explained the strings in the spotted code describe how the sensor works when VoiceOver, one of the iPhones accessibility features, is turned on and speaking to the user. 9 to 5 Mac suggests this could be just the first instance of biometric security measures we see from Apple. Previously, the website claimed the rumored "iWatch" could come equipped with biometric sensors to match the device with the user.

There is also a long-standing rumor Apple will soon get into the wireless payment business. A fingerprint scanner which ensures only one person can access an iPhone could provide the higher level of security Apple has likely been waiting for.

Additionally, as noted by Bulgarian designer-developer Pavel Simeonov and spotted by Forbes, a fingerprint scanner could go a long way towards boosting the effectiveness of iCloud Keychain, a new feature in iOS 7 which generates and stores complex and secure passwords for users. Apple users can access these passwords on each of their devices, from iPad to iPhone and Mac.

As Simeonov Tweeted, "Fingerprint sensor in iPhone 5S is much more than a gimmick. This + iCloud keychain = end of passwords."