Apple's working on an in-screen fingerprint sensor - could it come to the iPhone 12?

iPhone SE
The Phone SE has Touch ID, but a future iPhone could move this into the screen. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple has largely stopped using Touch ID for its devices now, save for the iPhone SE and some iPads, but it seems the company could revive the technology in style - by putting it under the screen of its phones.

That's something we've heard before, with a rumor in late 2019 suggesting the iPhone 12 could have it, and another more recent rumor suggesting it could come in the upcoming iPad Air 4. But now a new patent from Apple (as discovered by AppleInsider) suggests the company is still working on the concept.

The patent shows a cross section of how the in-screen Touch ID would work, and also posits solutions to various issues that can be faced with such a tech, like the temperature of OLED screens or dealing with opaque displays. Suffice it to say, it's pretty technical stuff.

Not all in-screen fingerprint sensors in modern phones are useful though, as some are hard to use if you position your thumb wrong, have wet or cold hands, or just are unlucky, so it's good that Apple is troubleshooting before the tech is available to buy.

Will this come to the iPhone 12?

Despite the earlier rumor, we don't think this tech will come to the iPhone 12 - if Apple is publishing patents on the tech just two months before we'd expect the new iPhone to launch, the company likely doesn't have enough time to get the tech into the phone.

That's because patents are often published years before their tech ends up in devices, as patents are just used by companies to test out possible new pieces of gear and hardware solutions. So perhaps the iPhone 13, or even 14, will have in-screen Touch ID.

Apple better hurry though, because the tech has been available in Android phones for years now, and nowadays nearly every new high-end Android phone has some kind of in-screen fingerprint scanner. 

Despite Apple's Face ID being hailed as super secure, many people prefer the convenience of in-screen fingerprint scanners, so the company will have to hurry to stay competitive.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.