A glimpse of Apple’s in-display fingerprint scanner that will never be


The 2018 iPhone models aren't going to have an in-display Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
Touch ID could be back, but not as you know it.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

When Apple decided to create a bezel-less iPhone, it needed a replacement for the fingerprint scanner in the Home button. The company decided to go with facial recognition, but also looked into embedding a Touch ID scanner into the display.

A holdover from this period is a patent the company received today.

Apple filed its patent for a “Light sensitive display with switchable detection modes for detecting a fingerprint” in September 2016. That’s during the time when the company was developing the iPhone X. 

Glimpse of the past, not the future

The iPhone X uses Face ID not Touch ID, and it’s very unlikely Apple is going to take a step backward and put an in-display fingerprint scanner in any of the 2018 iPhone models. 

Apple promises that its facial recognition system is 20 times more secure than its fingerprint one. “The probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID),” says a document on the company’s support site.

And the tremendous sales of the iPhone X show that millions of people have no problems with its facial recognition system. A survey of iPhone X users backs this up.

While there’s no doubt there are people who would prefer Apple to go back to Touch ID, these voices seem to be in the minority. Apple does not have a history of changing its course to satisfy a minority, no matter how vocal. So this patent for an in-display fingerprint scanner is almost certainly just a historical relic.