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Rumors of the iPhone 5's successor are ramping up to unprecedented levels and a new job posting by Apple only adds fuel to the fire. Apple listed a job posting for a software engineer to join its Melbourne Design Centre team in Florida, the location of AuthenTec, a security company purchased by Apple last year. Apple has long been interested in increased security, and this job posting alludes to a fingerprint sensor possibly coming to play in future Apple products, including the iPhone.

Apple's interest in AuthenTec is firmly grounded. AuthenTec was quietly acquired for $365 million last year, but not much has come out of the acquisition yet. However, upon acquisition Apple directed AuthenTec to focus solely on fingerprint sensing and identity management, two plausible defenses against unauthorized users of a gadget, and the implications in mobile are paramount.

According to Patently Apple, Apple recently acquired trademarks for "AuthenTec" and "KeepSafe." The idea that these two words could play a role in a future iteration of Apple's portfolio of marketable terms is almost set in stone. These phrases even align with the KeepSafe home page on an old AuthenTec website which could shed light on a possible feature of iOS 7. 

KeepSafe is described as "an additional fingerprint enabled software application purchased from AuthenTec Store. KeepSafe allows you to encrypt your files in a  protected folder. The folder can be shown on your Desktop or in Computer. This folder will not be visible for other users sharing the computer."

Suffice it to say, Apple is far from the bleeding edge of security if the Cupertino company indeed decides to put a fingerprint sensor on the next iPhone. This sort of technology has already been implemented in PC's without much headway. A fingerprint scanner feature would clearly set it apart from competitors in mobile, but it would have some convincing to do as a feature (see the Motorola Atrix as proof).

A fingerprint sensor is unlikely to add value in daily practice for the average consumer. If Apple aims fingerprint security as the next iPhone's competitive advantage, it would be harder to justify the necessity of it. Then again, what do we really need that we already have? Apple's iOS already offers passcode protection and though a four digit code is far from the ultimate in security, iOS could easily require more digits. A fingerprint scanner seems a little "ahead of the curve" in the sense that it assumes our digital information is actually important and that we actually want to protect it, but it would be a first for Apple, so they might be able to convince some consumers they actually need it.

On the contrary, there are clear advantages in authorizing identified users as warranted to use a device especially in the field of E-Commerce. The idea that a fingerprint scan accompanied by a credit card number is a welcome line of defense which would greatly influence identity verification in online shopping. I will admit that fraudulent purchases online is an area of promise for a fingerprint scanner, but I don't see Apple pitching online purchases as a requirement of a future iPhone. With NFC out of the picture, the idea that an iPhone for contactless payments seems more of a dream than a reality. To top it off, an iPhone would have an even tougher time implementing a fingerprint scanner without vendor buy-in since the infrastructure for mobile payments is still in its infancy and has yet to show the growth NFC technology requires for wide acceptance.

There's no doubt that smartphones are a potential security nightmare if sensitive information is on-board. In business, I believe a fingerprint sensor could merit true value in preventing confidential information from passing to the wrong hands. Such a feature is plausible for Apple to capitalize on since the iPhone has become commonplace in businesses.

If a smartphone had the ability to only allow one user to gain complete access to the home screen, the iPhone holds a strong chance of being one of the most secure smartphones available. This could be an attractive feature of a future iPhone, but I think it will have to accompany a strong catalyst to attract consumer attention. While NFC and mobile payments seem like the strongest beneficiaries of a fingerprint scanner, Apple would need to highlight their mobile payment system as a true differentiator compared to what other smartphones already offer. This is a feat an iPhone would behoove to market extremely carefully since NFC and mobile payments are not new technologies in any sense.

The critical takeaway of a smartphone with a fingerprint sensor is in what justifies the need for it, and as we approach an era of increased reliance on the cloud and safe-guarded data, an iPhone with a fingerprint scanner need only convince consumers they need it, and they need it now, for it to be successful.

What are your thoughts on an iPhone with a fingerprint scanner? Could it serve as the competitive advantage Apple needs to assert itself as innovative in the mobile market once again? Or is it a gimmick?

Image via Bwwstatic.


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74 Reactions to this post

"Would a fingerprint scanner add value to the next iPhone?"


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Anonymous A fingerprint scanner? LOL no. That would be ridiculous.
Shane Valentine Motorola already did this.
Cvetelina Toncheva iFingerprint :D
Jerry Goldbaum Kimberly - Amd likewise a phone call wouldn't do much good either when the battery is dead linking back to the original comment of unlocking the phone to make a call.
Kimberly Paradee I have it on my gadgets but all those phones in many boxes at the airports around the world say different because once your battery is dead that doesn't do any good.
Kimberly Paradee That would be a great idea for icon! And for taking it outside of work would be considered theft.
John Resch Add an anal probe..
Curtis Owens would be nice to have a icon on the unlock screen that contains information about how to get in contact with the owner. Better would be to take the phones to apple or what ever the phone belongs to to have them track down the owners.
Curtis Owens wouldn't be a bad feature on any phone.
Fabian Toti That is dumb
Brandon Johnson You know the fingerprint scanner was on the original atrix, face unlock is a part of ICS.
Devin Martinez If done right I say yes
Matthew Swanson Not for the average consumer...
Michael Benesa Umm, no. Just another gimm8ck to add to their bullet points for marketing.
James Norwood Apple needs to be changed to Crapple and change the icon to a coiled pile of crap.
Chris Cain McKalpain I hope this rumor is false...
Anthony Bush iPhones are good phones but they're boring. Unless Apple comes up with good changes I'm going to stick with android
Brain Roopull That's been done before by Motorola. Yawn.
Gilbert King I hope the finger print scanner makes the iphone useless to all would be iphone thieves. Provided the user has it enabled and is using it.
Aaron Martell So your finger gets scanned and now apple will have access to all of your information.
Herwin Torres I could live without it
Jerry Goldbaum Waii- do you actually use Siri? I use it every day to set reminders , timers, calendar events, etc. It's not a gimmick if you actually use it.
Itzel Jeronimo Yes. Lol
Waii Hui stop with the gimmicks! siri is a gimmick, apple needs to really blow everyone's mind with iOS7. fingerprint scanner isn't gonna cut it!
Robert Hoellering No just another stupid thing that is it brakes you may not be able to use your iphone. How about a new UI or NFC or i don't know anything that will bring the iphone in to this gen of smartphones not 2009.
Micca Koster Another stupid idea from apple. Apple will be sending updates constantly to make it work
Jeb Johnston Yeah, cause it did wonders for the original Atrix.
Jerry Goldbaum Yep, gimmicks. Just like half the crap on a Galaxy S 4. Check.
Kevin Halterman Kind of a lame novelty
Charles W. Y. Wong Junk iphone will never catch up.
Jerry Goldbaum Kimberly - That's what Find My iPhone is for.
Tim Fleming Gimmicks suck and that's all iPhone brings to the table.
Sohraab Kahlon the motorola atrix had that 2 years ago LOL
Eric Mitchell I could just simply type in my 4-digit code in a sec.
Kimberly Paradee That's all fine and dandy until you loose it and someone like me finds it and would love to call a family member to let you know where your phone is at! If you are traveling on an aircraft especially! We have a TON in lost and found because of this!
Jason Sug no apple's "new" revolutionary features are going to be nfc and photosphere and all those iShips are going to go nuts about it
Denver Garkie i'm pretty sure they have attachments for most smartphones that allow for fingerprint scanning http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/crucialtec-biometric-fingerprint-scanner-10-fingers-hands-on/ ALSO motorola has a fingerprint reader http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LFmIgNhg0M4
John Mercado Wtf? James Bond had this tech 20 years ago.
Jerry Goldbaum Copying the Atrix? Um, the HP ipaq Windows Mobile Pocket PC had fingerprint scanning years before the Atrix and it worked well.
Robert Urriza they should have eye scanner instead hhehe
Bill Ellis Meh. I still don't even use the security lockscreens. I just don't leave my phone unattended.
Edgar Rodriguez The atrix finger scanner. If done right it can be scary for jerks who steal phones
Kevin Zhang Copying the atrix?
Reese Woodson Naw, just another gimmick.......
Michael Santangelo When I owned my Motorola Atrix with a fingerprint scanner, it worked about half the time.
Ian Baylon Sure add it we'll see what happens when apple fanboys say it's advanced technology and then their iPhones can't read their fingerprints.
Lanh Nguyen I don't see how.
Bobby Delaney lame gimmick. If Apple wants to get innovative, they need to open iOS and let the developers innovate for them. Ask Android. More than half of the cool software stuff that comes with each iteration of android was created and shared for free by a developer. You want the bleeding edge, let those who love to spend hours coding for free bring it to iOS.
Santiago Alexander Cruz Ehh. Ehhh. Not really. Sounds like another siri to me.
Mark Belkowski pointless feature. but the apple sheep will love it.
Nathan Bryant No. It's not needed.
Anthony Evans Putting android on will
Brennan King Had a finger print scanner on my last laptop - never used it. Seems utterly pointless unless your phone is in constant danger of being stolen or used by unauthorized persons.
Cj Espiritu that would SUCK
Chris Roberts Try again
Luis Reich So you can unlock the iphone differently and get back to the same old look and feel and same crappy, feature-less software?? LOL No thanks. I will pass
Haldi Kuniqi wow a fingerprint scanner.. so cool
Mohamed Ahmed or something that's actually useful >.> I personally don't see why I would need one on my phone
Chris Sucharda Motorola android phone already had that feature. So last year
Niels Rafael feel free add like a idiot no way iphone sucks and sucks for life
Zak Raptis It didn't even work out for the atrix
Mohamed Ahmed how about.........NFC
Said Issa In price...yes
Jason Ramos oh please




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