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Don’t hold your breath for an in-screen Touch ID on iPhones

Apple might not offer an under-display fingerprint sensor on its iPhones for the next couple of years at least. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the slate of iPhones coming in 2023 and 2024 will most likely stick with Face ID as the biometric authentication protocol.

Kuo, who maintains a fairly reliable track record at predicting Apple’s future product road map, claimed last year that an iPhone with under-screen Touch ID will arrive in 2023. Separate reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal also claimed that Apple has been experimenting with an under-display fingerprint sensor for a while now.

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I previously predicted iPhones would support under-display fingerprint sensing/Touch ID in 2023 at the earliest. But the latest survey indicates new iPhones in 2023 & 2024 may not adopt under-display Touch ID. Face ID with a mask on iPhone is already a great biometrics solution.

— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) March 30, 2022

Kuo’s latest claim might come as a disappointment for folks waiting for Touch ID to make a return, but it makes sense. The upcoming iPhone 14 Pro duo will again rearrange the Face ID hardware to eliminate the notch and do its job via an odd hole + pill cutout drilled at the top.

And if Apple’s product history is anything to go by, the new notch-less design will stick for a couple of generations at the very least. And that rules out the possibility of seeing different biometric authentication hardware on iPhones in the immediate future. Touch ID is accurate and isn’t limited by any masking hassles, but Face ID now works with masks, too.

Android phones, on the other hand, have embraced the security feature in nearly all price brackets.

Should Apple bring back Touch ID?

A fingerprint sensor is convenient, and a more natural way for unlocking a smartphone, regardless of the sensor’s position. But if one were to talk about accuracy, Face ID appears to have the upper hand, or so says Apple. As per an official support document, the probability of a random person taking a look at your iPhone (or supported iPads) and unlocking it via Face ID is 1 in 1,000,000, with or without a mask. As far as Touch ID goes, the probability of this happening is 1 in 50,000, according to Apple.

Going by the numbers, Face ID is more accurate. But then there’s the biological caveat that comes with siblings blessed with similar facial attributes. Apple says the statistical probability of Face ID opening the unlock gates for another person goes up “for twins and siblings that look like you, and among children under the age of 13.”

Hi there! We are here to provide as much information as possible about Face ID. If you're concerned about a sibling being able to unlock your iPhone with Face ID, we recommend using a passcode to authenticate.

— Apple Support (@AppleSupport) February 4, 2022

And this is not just some technical paper jargon that Apple has written to avoid scrutiny. There is no dearth of users complaining about Face ID being spoofed by their siblings. Even Apple recognizes the problem and has repeatedly advised the concerned users to rely on a passcode system to keep their siblings from fooling Face ID.

Over the past few months, rumors have also claimed that Apple will integrate the Touch ID sensor inside the side-mounted power button on iPhones. Doing so would allow Apple to get rid of the notch, especially on its more affordable iPhones that don’t get as much of the hardware innovation love as the pricey Pro models.

Android phones have embraced that idea as well, and there’s already some precedent for that in Apple’s ecosystem. Take for example the current-gen iPad Air, which has Touch ID sensors baked into the power button. Whether Apple adopts that solution on iPhones before Touch ID goes under the display is a debate for another day.

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