Is Apple about to turn your smartphone screen into a fingerprint scanner?

Apple patent
Could future iPhones have a full screen fingerprint sensor?

Touch ID was a big deal for Apple as it gave the iPhone 5S a major selling point beyond just improved specs, but if a patent that recently appeared is anything to go by Touch ID may just be the beginning.

The patent, which turned up in the World Intellectual Property Organization database, shows plans by Apple to turn the entire display into a fingerprint sensor.

Being able to tell which finger is touching the screen opens up a lot of possibilities beyond just security. It could be used for application shortcuts, for example swiping your index finger upwards could cause a specific app to launch. The same principle could be applied to games, allowing developers to add extra controls.

Of course a patent doesn't mean this will happen and even if it does it could be years away yet, but it's certainly an idea with a lot of potential.

You've got the touch

The same patent also details plans to turn the home button into a trackpad. Apple would likely use a modified version of the Touch ID sensor to do this, but basically all that's needed is for the sensor to be able to track the movements of your finger as well as the static imprint.

This would then enable you to scroll maps and web pages simply by sliding your finger to one edge of the button, while rotating your finger could perhaps bring up a scroll wheel that could be used to launch apps.

This, if it happens at all, is likely to arrive sooner than the full screen fingerprint scanner and may be enough to tempt Apple to explore bigger screen sizes, as it would make controlling the phone with one hand easier than ever.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.