Apple could be looking for a way to integrate its fingerprint sensor into the smartphone’s display, lending credibility to the rumors that the next iPhone will feature a bezel-less display and get rid of the home button.
A patent was filed by the company for a “capacitive fingerprint sensor including an electrostatic lens.” What that means is that the electrostatic lens would be able to read a fingerprint through different components of the smartphone — such as the display, according to a report from AppleInsider.
The move would represent a huge shift for Apple, which has kept the home button on the iPhone since the device first launched in 2007. Some reports indicate that Apple will include a “full screen” display on the 2017 iPhone, essentially meaning that the entire front of the phone would be a display. While it would be easy for Apple to integrate software commands previously found in the home button — like the ability to invoke Siri — it has been unclear exactly how Apple planned to bring Touch ID to the phone without a home button.
The technology could do more than simply move the fingerprint sensor into the display — it could also help make fingerprint sensors more accurate. That’s because with fingerprint sensors today, the distance between the contact surface and the capacitive sensor can blur the finger’s magnetic field. The elecrostatic lens would change that, because it can shape or bend the electric field from the user’s finger.
Just because Apple has filed a patent for the tech, that doesn’t mean that it will end up in an iPhone model — or that the next iPhone will use the tech at all. It’s likely we’ll see more iPhone-related patents in the coming months as Apple continues to develop its next iPhone.