News by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday September 10, 2013.
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Apple has devised a new way to grant users fast access to their smartphones - touching the phone. Rather than have users swipe, key in a numeric code, or move along a pattern, the iPhone 5S will grant access to devices through a fingerprint scanner that will unlock only when the designated owner puts his or her finger on the scanner.
At it's iPhone fall launch event, Apple announced a new Touch ID feature that will make it possible to authenticate a device owner by scanning a finger rather than requiring the entrance of a code. The iPhone 5S has a Touch ID sensor built into the Home button. A user can place his or her finger on the sensor and the phone will unlock once it matches the fingerprint to the pattern stored on file. The sensor has 360-degree readability so no how the finger is positioned, it can scan sub-epidermal skin layers to authenticate the user. It also supports multiple fingerprints.
A stainless steel ring detects the user and a sapphire crystal front protects the sensor and home button to prevent scratching. Fingerprint scanning can also extend to apps to prevent things like frequently having to enter passwords to purchase items from iTunes. Touch ID should grant faster access and increased protection because thieves, hackers, and pranksters will have a tougher time duplicating fingerprints than guessing numeric unlock codes. Apple has long been expected to add this feature since 2012 when it acquired AuthenTec, a security company with experience in fingerprint sensors and security.
The fingerprint is stored securely within the device, but Touch ID will likely ignite uncomfortable conversations about security, privacy, and government intrusion. Apple could suffer a breach or there might even be NSA snooping associated with the feature in light of the ongoing Edward Snowden leaks saga. Apple maintains that it does not store the fingerprint online, the device is encrypted, and other apps do not have access to the secured fingerprint.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.