Apple’s new patent could supercharge Touch ID


Someday, you might be running everything from your Home button.
Photo: Apple

Apple filed a patent application today that could someday help you use Touch ID to run everything on your iPhone or iPad without covering the screen with your fat digits.

The application (Patent #US2015/0135108, if you’re into the numbers thing) is 339 pages long and includes over 200 drawings describing in great detail how this new tech could work. The official (bone-dry) description is “devices, methods and graphical user interfaces for manipulating user interfaces based on fingerprint sensor inputs,” which is way less exciting than saying “controlling amazing technology with nothing but your thumb,” but the USPTO kind of insists on that first style.

If Apple actually institutes this tech in future phones and tablets, it would make Touch ID more than just a nifty way to unlock your phone, a one-trick gimmick that only amazes people the first two or three times you do it in front of them. It would be great to see the feature developed into a more robust and integral part of the user experience.

Along with Touch ID’s current uses in unlocking your phone and authorizing purchases in the App Store, the patent describes a touchpad that can tell which direction your fingerprint is moving and then display two user interfaces based on which way you swipe. The second would be “a multitasking user interface that includes representations of a plurality of concurrently open applications,” which current iPhones toss up when you tap the Home button twice.

The patent application looks like Apple’s going one further, however, and letting us even navigate through these UIs entirely from the fingerprint scanner without having to swipe on the screen at all. Hopefully, this will save us loads of cleaning time when we’re messing around with our phones while eating cheese puffs.



Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.