Apple has added a fingerprint scanner to the next version of its iPhone, in a move that could help endear the smartphone to more businesses.
The iPhone 5S will include Touch ID as standard, which will see a sensor integrated into the device’s home button. This will enable users to scan their fingerprint and use it to access their phone, offering an extra layer of protection against potential data breaches via lost or stolen devices.
The Touch ID Sensor works by scanning the sub-epidermal skin layers of the person holding the iPhone to verify their identity before unlocking. As a safety measure the user's fingerprint is only stored on the A7 chip and is never uploaded to the cloud.
“All fingerprint information is encrypted and stored securely in the Secure Enclave inside the A7 chip on the iPhone 5s; it’s never stored on Apple servers or backed up to iCloud,” Apple noted.
However, in order for Touch ID to have value as a business security tool, firms will need to ensure that their staff set up the feature on their iPhones.
Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, said the fingerprint scanner has been designed as a way of making it easier and quicker for iPhone users to secure their phones compared to the current passcode system.
“Unfortunately some people find [passcode is] too cumbersome and they don’t set it up,” he said at the launch event. “In fact in our research about half of customers do not set up a passcode on the device.”
Touch ID “makes it easy and fun to do, and uses a key you have with you everywhere you go: your finger”, Schiller added.
The Touch ID sensor is only 170 microns thin, just thicker than a human hair, with a 500ppi resolution to take a very detailed image of fingerprints. “It scans through the outer layers of your epidermis to the inner live layers, to get a better image of your fingerprint,” Schiller said.
Users can set up the fingerprint sensor for more than one finger, for example to use Touch ID left- and right-handed, and it can be used in any orientation, which should avoid any fiddly operation required to get your finger in the correct position. Schiller also said that the sensor gets better at recognising your fingerprint with use.
Apple added that the sensor recognises a finger touch, and it is only activated when needed so it does not drain the battery. Touch ID can also be used as a secure way to approve purchases from the app or iTunes stores.
The iPhone 5S was unveiled alongside Apple's first ever lower-cost iPhone, the iPhone 5C. The iPhone 5S will be available SIM-free in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions costing £549, £629 and £709 respectively.
The iPhone 5S is set to arrive in the UK on 20 September. Check back with V3 then for a full review of the new iPhone 5S.
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