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Apple's Fingerprint Sensor Could Be A Gimmick

Apple's Fingerprint Sensor Could Be A Gimmick


By now everyone knows that Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) upcoming iPhone 5S is supposed to feature a fingerprint sensor.


The clues have all been spelled out, from the fact that Apple bought AuthenTec, a company that specializes in security hardware, including fingerprint sensors, to news that the new beta version of iOS 7 contained a folder labeled Biometric Kit.

Related: The Apple News You Missed This Weekend

According to Business Insider, the idea behind incorporating a fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone, aside from the whole “groundbreaking technology” thing, would be to allow for secure login, to promote device sharing and to expedite mobile payments.

The going rumor is that the sensor would be embedded into the home button initially with the possibility that future Apple products could have sensors in the touch screen.

Unfortunately, according to biometric expert, Geppy Parziale, given durability issues, chances are the surface would eventually break, rendering the sensor useless.

Parziale added that a number of other factors, including sweating, contact with dirt in pockets, heat (and cold) and even exposure to the sun could all affect the sensitivity and accuracy of the sensor surface.

There are two methods for fingerprint identification – touchless and touch-based. Parziale said that Apple would almost certainly utilize the less accurate touch-based system.

This presents another set of problems. First, it’s possible for two people to have similar enough fingerprints that the system could be deceived. Second, fingerprint ID technology is more difficult to work with than passwords or other security measures.

Previous attempts to integrate fingerprint technology into mobile devices, by companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) owned Motorola Solutions, Fujitsu, Siemens (NYSE: SI), and Samsung (OTC: SSNLF) have failed, mostly because the sensor surface deteriorated over time.

Business Insider concluded that, for all the reasons listed, a fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S would be little more of a gimmick.

MacRumors reported that Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster said in a research note that the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S would be limited to user authentication, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, 9to5Mac reported that KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo said he expected the iPhone 5S to feature a convex sapphire fingerprint reader home button. Using sapphire, which is second only to diamond in hardness, all but removes the possibility of scratching according to Kuo.

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.

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