I certainly hope so! According to the YouTube channel iUpdate, it’s in the works for the coming Apple Watch Series 6. Right now this all just the early rumor and Apple patent watch phase, which doesn’t have the best track record. However, the addition of biometrics fits with the evolution of Apple hardware that we put our hands on and would provide an additional measure of security for the company’s most personal of devices.
According to these reports, Apple is working on two different options for the Watch. First would be adding a fingerprint sensor to the Digital Crown. That would be a small sensor, but it would likely be a fairly straightforward implementation. Other phone manufacturers have added fingerprint sensors in similar locations, so this isn’t unheard of.
Door number two is more obvious and also much cooler. That would be a fingerprint sensor embedded in the Watch’s small display. Putting TouchID there would be impressive, especially if Apple can pull it off without changing the thickness of the Series 6. I think that’s the ultimate key, as I don’t think they will want to change the design for what is ultimately a small addition.
Since we haven’t heard anything about Mini-LED being ready for the Watch yet, I have my doubts that it’s up to speed. Mini-LED would allow Apple to slim the device down and cut battery life at the same time. But if we haven’t heard about it by now, I don’t see how it could make the Series 6, especially with the supply chain and Silicon Valley taking major body blows from COVID-19. Without Mini-LED I wonder if Apple can get TouchID embedded in this screen without making the Watch thicker. However, this is Apple we’re talking about and they’ve pretty much written the book on miniaturization and design for wearables. If any company can pull it off, they can.
Wherever a TouchID sensor is located, it would definitely add to the Watch experience in terms of both usability and security. As for usability, that passcode keypad is awfully small when looked at through bleary eyes at 5:30 AM. I can’t tell you how often I have fat-fingered those numbers on the first try. TouchID would make this daily procedure as easy as what we have grown used to on the iPhone and iPad.
As for security, a 4-digit code is better than nothing, but it is far from state of the art. In reality, this is the bare minimum. While we have the option to use longer codes with the Watch, that just tends to make the size of the Watch’s on-screen buttons and the limited accuracy of using them more of an issue.
TouchID isn’t perfect either, but it would be a big step up from nothing but a pin code. The fact is, fingerprint security can be defeated, but only by someone with some know how, motivation and some level of physical access to you. Biometrics on mobile devices increase security because their convenience encourages it. For instance, the ease of using TouchID makes entering a longer and more secure passcode less of a hassle because you will hardly ever need it. But the benefit is clear- an 8 digit code is orders of magnitude harder for a thief to break if they steal your Watch.
There’s another significant benefit to adding biometrics to the Apple Watch. If Apple wants to encourage wider use of Apple Pay via the Watch, this is the best way to do it. We have that added layer of security with TouchID or Face ID on the iPhone. Users will be more likely to use the device on their wrist if it feels easier and just as secure. And in a world where we are all more aware of what we are touching and the potential implications of that, contactless payment is only going to become more and more popular.
All things considered, TouchID seems like a no-brainer for the Apple Watch. I don’t see a camera of any kind, much less one capable of pulling off Face ID coming to the Watch for a while, so these rumors make sense. TouchID is the logical choice for biometrics on the Watch. The only question is whether this is the year. I don’t know if the Series 6 will end up being too soon or if this feature will end up falling to the wayside due to time constraints imposed by COVID-19. Time and the rumor mill will eventually tell, but the sooner TouchID comes to the Apple Watch, the better.