Apple Watch might get Touch ID for easier unlocking


Is Touch ID really necessary?
Mockup: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Apple is working to bring Touch ID to Apple Watch for the first time, according to new reports out Friday. The company is said to be exploring two methods of integrating the technology into its wearable for easier unlocking.

The new model may prove particularly interesting to Apple Watch Series 2 owners, who are expected to miss out on Apple’s upcoming watchOS 7 update this fall.

Apple Watch packs an astounding amount of chips and sensors into a device that can be comfortably worn on your wrist all day long. One thing it has always been missing, however, is a biometric security solution.

Sources say that could change as early as 2021.

Apple Watch to get Touch ID upgrade?

Apple pioneered biometrics with Touch ID in iPhone 5s in 2013. Face ID has replaced it on newer iPhone and iPad models, but fingerprint scanning remains the favorite for more affordable devices — and for the MacBook lineup.

Touch ID still has room to grow, then, and according to both iUpdate and The Verifier, it is making its way to Apple Watch. The technology could be a headline feature for Apple Watch Series 7 in 2021.

It is believed Apple is exploring the possibility of integrating Touch ID into the Watch’s Digital Crown — or beneath its display. This would negate the need to reenter a passcode when putting Apple Watch on every morning.

These are somewhat questionable claims for a number of reasons.

Maybe not an ideal move

Apple Watch’s Digital Crown is home to a titanium electrode that enables the ECG on Series 4 and Series 5 models. When you hold your finger on it, the device is able to measure your heart rhythm and recognize abnormalities.

If Apple was to add Touch ID to the Digital Crown, it would need to combine that electrode with a fingerprint scanner. It’s not clear if that’s even possible.

Perhaps under the Watch’s screen, then? Well, display-embedded fingerprint scanners are still unproven for now. Those that have used them, such as Samsung, have been criticized for their lack of accuracy and reliability.

Apple is rumored to be working on embedding Touch ID beneath the iPhone’s display, giving users a choice between fingerprint and face scanning. But it’s yet to happen, and it’s not going to be cheap.

Series 2 to miss out on watchOS 7

This begs questions about whether Touch ID is necessary on Apple Watch. It seems most Apple Watch owners only unlock their wearables once a day — when they first put them on — and it takes just a few seconds. In fact, you can unlock Apple Watch after putting it on simply by unlocking your iPhone.

Adding Touch ID to would be an added cost for very little benefit, then. It doesn’t seem like an obvious move Apple would make, and for that reason, we recommend taking these claims with a pinch of salt.

Elsewhere in the reports, it is claimed Apple Watch Series 2 will miss out on the watchOS 7 update coming this fall. It doesn’t mention Apple Watch Series 1, but given that both devices use the same processor, that’s likely to suffer, too.

It’s not yet clear what kind of changes and improvements Apple will make that would prevent older Apple Watch models from running watchOS 7. We’ll find out more about it when it’s previewed during the WWDC keynote in June.