One of Apple’s surprising hardware announcements last week was the move of the iPad Air’s fingerprint sensor to a small power button at the top of the screen. It’s a change from the typical touch ID start button at the bottom of the screen, and it allows Apple to place a larger screen-to-edge screen on the iPad Air for the first time. It is also an ideal place for a fingerprint sensor, and I would love to see it on the iPhone 12.
Apple has moved most of its iPhone line to Face ID in recent years, and offers a quick way to scan your face and unlock your phone. The only iPhone that does not support Face ID is the iPhone SE, which still needs a large frame to accommodate the Touch ID fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the screen. Face ID was good in the past, but for the last six months I have longed to return to Touch ID. Like many others, I wear a mask every time I leave my house, which means I always have to enter the PIN code when the mask blocks Face ID from working properly.
Apple has improved the software experience to speed up the failover to PIN, but Face ID has been made virtually useless for me for several months now. Since the pandemic does not show signs of slowing down, I have missed the reliability of Touch ID. Apple’s Face ID technology also does not work well when an iPhone sits flat on a desk and requires your attention (by default) to unlock the device.
While Apple has been rumored to include on-screen fingerprint technology in iPhones for several months, we have yet to see anything materialize. By using the iPad’s fingerprint sensor in the iPhone power button, you can get Face ID, Touch ID and a great screen using technology that the company is already comfortable with.
Apple’s new iPad Air is the first major change to Touch ID in several years, and it paves the way for a similar system on the iPhone SE models and hopefully the larger iPhones that currently use Face ID.
Android manufacturers already have built-in fingerprint sensors in screens and power buttons. The screen variants have been affected and missed, with reliability issues that could have prevented Apple from using similar technology in the last couple of years. Early sensors on the screen were slow to authenticate, but newer devices seem to have caught up. Everyone except the latest button sensors have also had problems. Apple’s reputation is to only introduce new technology when it’s ready, so I’m willing to assume that the iPad sensor is as fast and reliable as the company claims.
Although a new form of Touch ID will not appear on the iPhone 12, there are also other parts of Apple’s new iPad Air that I will see on the new iPhones. Apple’s new A14 Bionic, a 5nm chip with a six-core CPU, starred in the iPad Air announcement and will undoubtedly appear on the iPhone 12. Apple promises a 40 percent improvement in performance over the previous iPad Air, The marking piece is the most advanced yet.
Apple has also switched to USB-C on the iPad Air, which is a feature I’m sure many of us would like to see happen on the iPhone 12. It still seems unlikely that the USB-C will appear on the iPhone 12, though. Despite rumors about Apple removing the in-box charger for the iPhone 12, we have not seen any solid suggestions that there will be a move to USB-C this year. We could have waited a long time for an iPhone with USB-C, and it is believed that Apple does not lean heavily in wireless advances instead.
Apple has a chance to shake up this year’s iPhone 12 hardware. Rumor has it that it will be a new industrial design reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and 5, with square edges and stainless steel. We now have to wait until October to find out how much the iPhone 12 is really changing this year. I keep my fingers crossed for USB-C and the return of Touch ID, but I have a feeling that they will remain crossed for a while.