New iPhone: Sapphire crystal fingerprint scanner 'to be embedded in home button'

Reports from Taiwan suggest new tech for fingerprint scanner, PayPal exec confirms Apple will introduce fingerprint tech

There have been plenty of rumours circulating that Apple is planning to incorporate fingerprint readers into the new iPhone, and now confirmation that this is the case appears to have come from PayPal.

Will Apple's next iPhone have a fingerprint scanner embedded into the home button?
Will Apple's next iPhone have a fingerprint scanner embedded into the home button?

The chief information security officer of eBay's e-commerce subsidiary PayPal Michael Barrett claimed that Apple intends to incorporate a fingerprint reader in the new iPhone. He was speaking at the Interop IT Conference and Expo.

Barrett indicated that Apple isn't the only smartphone manufacturer adding such a level of protection: "There is going to be a fingerprint enabled phone on the market later this year. Not just one, multiple," he said, according to a BGR report.

Sapphire crystal fingerprint scanner

More detail about the form of this fingerprint sensor comes from a Taiwan Technews.tw report (translation here). According to that article, Apple will feature what is referred to as a "sapphire crystal touch" home button on the new iPhone.

This new touch-sensitive button covered by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass will replace the current home button. The sensor needs to be scratch-resistant to maintain its fingerprint sensing capabilities.

Apple already uses a crystal glass cover for the rearfacing camera on the iPhone 5, notes the Technews report.

The report highlights some of the difficulties in implementing the new fingerprint technology from the high cost of the glass to the difficulty of assembling the parts, and having to avoid scratching the surface.

There have been reports that the new iPhone launch could be delayed due to issues with the implementation of the fingerprint sensor. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said back in April that Apple's planned fingerprint sensor poses multiple technical challenges that could cause delays to upcoming devices. Earlier this year, Kuo predicted that Apple's next-generation iPhone will have a built-in fingerprint sensor, which could be situated beneath the Home button. The latest report suggest that the fingerprint sensor will be incorporated with the home button. Such a move suggests that it may be impossible to use an iPhone if you aren't the registered owner.

It has been rumoured that Apple will incorporate fingerprint scanning technology into the iPhone since Apple acquired AuthenTec in July 2012 for a whopping $356 million. Authentic specialises in security systems such as fingerprint scanners. BGR notes that AuthenTec was a major supplier to Samsung, and suggests that Apple's purchase of the specialist technology will have hurt Samsung.

Waterproofing patents filed

Reports have also emerged that Apple has patented a means of waterproofing devices. Two patents, uncovered by Patently Apple, describe a "Water inhibiting slide switch" and "Electronic device moisture indicators." The latter appears to refer to the 3M tape used by Apple to identify whether a device has come in to contact with liquid, as this can void a warranty.

The former patent describes "methods, apparatus and materials for forming components" for use in portable computing devices. The technology would provide protection against moisture intrusion. For example, a moisture resistant environment that can be applied to the design of electromechanical switches, notes Patently Apple.

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Karen Haslam

Macworld U.K.
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