The Apple iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor: what we know

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Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

Unless you've been under a rock all morning, you're probably aware that Apple launched two new iPhones this morning, and that one of them has a built-in fingerprint reader.

Touch ID on the iPhone 5s.
(Credit: Apple)

The biometric scanner, called Touch ID, is located under the home button on the front of the iPhone 5s. It's capacitive and just 170 microns thick.

It scans your fingerprint in 500ppi detail, and can perform said scan from 360 degrees, meaning you can use it from any orientation.

It can learn multiple fingerprints, although Apple hasn't given a limit on how many. We'd assume that most users would want just the thumb and forefinger of each hand to be scanned.

Your scan data is stored directly onto the iPhone 5s, rather than any form of cloud storage, and at the moment it only does two things: it can replace your four-digit unlock code and it can authorise iTunes payments.

Weirdly, it looks like that's all it will do for a while. Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller has told AllThingsD that app developers won't get access to Touch ID as a form of authentication. He declined to comment on whether this may change in the future.

The home button.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

Given the potential uses for financial apps such as banking or even PayPal, it seems strange that Apple would be keeping this so closed at the moment. Even stranger is why it can't work with Apple applications such as iCloud or Keychain. We'd be very surprised if this stance didn't change in the future, especially given how much Apple paid for the technology.

Does this make your phone more secure? Well, according to Apple, less than half of iPhone users bother with a PIN lock, so the ease (and, let's be honest, the novelty) of Touch ID might encourage users to set up security for the first time.

Certainly, parents will appreciate the iTunes authorisation to stop kids from making either deliberate or inadvertent purchases when borrowing the iPhone.

Touch ID is undoubtedly an innovative addition to a smartphone, and while we're not sure it would be the sole selling point for the iPhone 5s, it's very hard to fault its addition. Expect to see Android manufacturers following suit in the near future.



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gregory.opera posted a comment   
Australia

"Touch ID is undoubtedly an innovative addition to a smartphone."

Because you know, Apple is the first smartphone manufacturer to offer integrated biometric (fingerprint) security on its smartphones (that's sarcasm, by the way)...

*Faceplam*

 

Im Batman posted a comment   
Australia

Do find the fact that its not open to other developers yet... its not like they rushed this feature to the device, they would have considered all the issues and problems that they would need to overcome. People might appreciate that the finger print data stays on the phone and doesn't go off into the cloud... so maybe they are still holding back to ensure developers can be controlled.

 

Pining posted a comment   
Australia

"Certainly, parents will appreciate the iTunes authorisation to stop kids from making either deliberate or inadvertent purchases when borrowing the iPhone."

-Are you serious?

"Expect to see Android manufacturers following suit in the near future."

-Again?

Of what value is it? I've got it on my computer. It's not new, no matter what apple might want to hint at. It's a fraction easier than a password. I would have thought forward thinking companies would be looking at something like an eye scan or facial recognition.

I'm betting on a down turn for apple over this phone. It's got the fingerprint of 'fail' all over it.




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