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Future iPhones may have under-the-screen fingerprint sensor for continuous authentication

Apple’s patents and independent biometrics experts both seem to suggest that for future iPhones, the entire screen will be equipped with fingerprint-sensing properties to ensure continuous authentication for users, according to a report by Phone Arena.

“We will probably move to a world of ubiquitous sensors. So it’s perfectly reasonable, and consistent with Apple’s patent application, to imagine that the entire screen of a phone would have fingerprint sensing capabilities, unlike the current small patches of fingerprint readers,” said Dr. Thomas Keenan, Professor at the University of Calgary and cybersecurity expert. “Like all technologies, this will get cheaper and it will be feasible to have a “sensor layer” under the screen.”

Both Apple and Samsung have been working on an under-the-screen fingerprint sensor for their respective smartphone models, which would allow the manufacturers to reduce bezels around the screen while positioning the fingerprint scanner on the front side of the device.

Last month, Apple Inc. published 56 patents it was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which includes an edge-to-edge display and an in-screen Touch ID button for future iPhones.

There are several benefits to an under-the-screen fingerprint sensor, including the “sensor layer” continuously scanning the user’s fingerprints as he or she uses the phone.

According to Keenan, the enhanced security feature could significantly alter smartphone culture as we know it.

People would be less concerned about where they leave their devices, as well as whether they remembered to lock their phone when they leave the room since the device will be able to lock itself automatically.

The under-the-screen sensor would also increase the convenience factor of the smartphone experience by eliminating a separate ‘authentication step’ for certain tasks.

In its patent application 9,652,066, Apple explains this improvement in user experience: “… in some instances it may be undesirable to have a user perform an authentication in a separate authentication step, for example switching between tasks to perform the authentication.”

In other words, the fingerprint sensors would work in the background to ensure the user is already authenticated when they initiate a purchase on the App Store or in iTunes. This would save the user the hassle of having to view and respond to a separate pop-up prompt.

It remains to be seen if Apple will have the technology ready in time for the release of the iPhone 8, which is expected to be September.

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