2021’s LCD iPhone might feature capacitive power button with Touch ID

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Touch ID isn't dead yet.
Mockup: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Apple is far from done with Touch ID. The latest research note from reliable TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicates the technology will return with at least one iPhone coming in 2021 — and it will have a new home.

Apple is expected to integrate a fingerprint scanner into a new capacitive power button on the side of its more affordable LCD device.

Face ID might be more convenient and more secure than fingerprint scanning, but like other biometric security solutions — including Touch ID — it’s not perfect. iPhone users in China are now discovering one of its biggest drawbacks as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Due to technology limitations, Face ID can’t work when users wear masks,” Kuo explained in a new report out today, obtained by Cult of Mac. As a result, the epidemic could have “negative impacts” on the iPhone user experience, but Apple may already have a solution up its sleeve for 2021.

Touch ID to return to iPhone in 2021

“We predicted that the 1H21 new LCD iPhone will be equipped with the new-design capacitive fingerprint solution integrated with side power button and believe it will improve the user experience,” Kuo added.

This sounds familiar, right? That’s because recent rumors — including other reports from Kuo — have suggested Touch ID will also be baked into some 2020 iPhone models. On those units, however, the scanner is expected to sit beneath the iPhone’s display.

The problem with fingerprint-scanning screens is that they’re expensive. So it seems that for more affordable LCD handsets, Apple will instead move Touch ID to the power button. And if it’s capacitive, it will be activated with just a touch, rather than a firm press.

This is the only detail Kuo offered on 2021’s LCD iPhone in today’s report.

Wait. This isn’t new …

The Android fans among us will be quick to point out that fingerprint-scanning power buttons aren’t brand-new. Apple’s rivals have been using them for years now; Sony was one of the first to adopt them with 2015’s Xperia Z5 handset, and others still employ them today.

The technology was flaky at first, as new technology often is. But it has improved over the years and is now considered just as reliable as fingerprint-scanning Home buttons.