Remember when the first concrete rumors of the new iPad Air started making the rounds earlier this year? One of the standout features in those reports was an under-screen TouchID sensor. The fact that we might first see a new feature like that in a mid-tier device was pretty interesting at the time, but was also reason for skepticism.
The main justification that was rumored for Apple going with TouchID on the Air was to mitigate the need for the more expensive True Depth camera array necessary for Face ID. If Apple was going with an iPad Pro-like design, they would need to shift their biometric security away from a Home button. If Face ID was off the table, then TouchID would have to be included somewhere. I definitely thought that made sense at the time.
However, in hindsight, the Power-button TouchID sensor that we got with the Air 4 was much more reasonable and realistic. An under-screen sensor has been done by multiple competitors and we know Apple has worked on it in the past. That said, how much money would they have saved on the bill of materials over Face ID going with a completely new sensor with new functionality? While the Air 4’s Power button TouchID sensor had to be re-designed, it still leverages years of Apple’s experience and expertise.
Why do I bring this up now? Because noted Apple leaker L0vetodream has already raised the issue of TouchID in regards to next year’s iPhone 13:
MESA uts for iPhone
— 有没有搞措 (@L0vetodream) October 16, 2020
In his usually cryptic way, L0vetodream refers to TouchID by its codename of MESA. Like the early iPad Air 4 rumors, he also predicts that the iPhone 13 will get under-screen TouchID.
The poet of leakers is known for his accuracy. However, while he may very well end up being correct, I think we would be better served with TouchID added to the iPhone 13’s Power button. The new sensor works very reliably on the iPad Air, is fast, and is located in a spot where it feels natural to use. Best of all, Apple would have a year of testing in the field with the iPad Air 4 and some manufacturing experience before scaling up to iPhone production levels.
In my humble opinion, this is the perfect way for Apple to keep biometric security in place while people need to wear masks. Maybe we won’t be by the time fall of 2021 rolls around, but who knows at this point. Having a choice of biometric security inputs, or the greater security of dual authentication, is still a win for iPhone users even if a vaccine brings the COVID-19 pandemic to a swift conclusion.
I know that I’m not the only one who wants to see Apple’s new TouchID sensor added to the iPhone. A few tech journalists and bloggers even called for Apple to add it to the iPhone 12 this year. While it would have added convenience, I can understand why that didn’t happen. The Power button on the iPhone has a little less space than the iPad Air, so there would still be more work involved to get it ready for primetime.
Even if we don’t get TouchID on the Power button, I do hope Apple’s original biometric security format comes to the iPhone 13 in some form next year. I still prefer using Face ID, but it’s good to have options, especially when you absolutely have to wear a mask all day at work. While I will gladly take TouchID however it comes, based on my experience with the iPad Air 4’s Power button sensor, I do hope it wins out in the end.