Ask Apple fans what they’d like to see in the next iPhone, and often the answer is the return of Touch ID, which sits perfectly in the screen itself. But, despite a lot of rumors, it has yet to be published – and the latest report suggests it could take nearly three years.
But we know, for sure, that Apple continues to work on this due to newly disclosed patents. As spotted by Patently Apple, Apple is working on something called an “under-display fingerprint sensor based on off-axis angular light.”
Here is the summary of the patent: “A touch sensor comprises a light-emitting layer covered with a transparent film and adapted to illuminate a surface in contact with the transparent layer and to allow the transmission of reflected light rays from the surface to the underlying layers. The base layers include an optical coupling layer, a collimator layer and a split image sensor. The optical coupling layer operates It bends the reflected light rays to form slanted light rays. The collimator layer includes a number of slots to collect the received rays of light. The slanted image sensor detects parallel slanted rays of light.”
There have been previous patents focusing on this, but the fact that new patents are emerging tells us that it is still a major focus for the company. What is interesting here is the patent’s interest in off-axis light.
You are familiar with the off-axis. It’s what makes OLED screens look a little weird when you look at them from an extreme angle for example, which is a sign of a good OLED screen that you don’t notice as you turn the screen away from you. The patent explains why this is important:
“For certain objects, tilted light forms stronger imaging signals than natural light in the imaging plane. For example, a fingerprint system/sensor with omnidirectional illumination, such as an under-display fingerprint sensor, may use tilted angle filters to capture stronger signals to enhance image contrast.
Well, it’s all very exciting, even if other reports suggest we have some time to wait before we see this type of Touch ID on the iPhone. The patent even stated that the technology wasn’t just limited to phone screens and could be used in a wearable device, likely like the Apple Watch.
On the same day, Apple also published another patent, with related news. It is also very cool.
It is called “detecting a gesture made by a person wearing a wearable electronic device” and when you read through it, it suddenly appears, “The screen may also provide an input surface for one or more input devices, such as, for example, a touch sensor and/or a sensor finger print “. The patent’s main focus isn’t allowing the watch (or other wearable device) to determine which party is using the device, but it does indicate that Apple is focusing a lot of its firepower on potentially having sensors under the screen.
In other words, we may have to wait a while before the sensors under the screen make it to Apple products, but it seems likely that they are on their way. Who knows, maybe your Apple Watch will have Touch ID at the bottom of the screen first.