Based on leaked pictures of the iPhone 5S, it’s unlikely the handset, which appears to simply be a refreshed iPhone 5 (review), will feature Apple’s long-rumored fingerprint sensor security system. But a patent awarded to the company on Thursday suggests it may be closer to introducing the new feature than we expected. The patent was initially filed last February and published earlier today, so perhaps we will indeed see it added in a new home button.
Apple patent, which is titled “Integrally Molded Die and Bezel Structure for Fingerprint Sensors and the Like,” details how a fingerprint sensor and the necessary conductive bezels could be mounted to a single structure. The patent describes a system in which the bezel pushes a small electrical current through the user’s finger to activate the sensor.
Apple’s patent explains how the two components, sensor and bezel, could be packaged together to form a single component:
“By encasing both the bezel and the sensor die in the encapsulation structure, those elements may be brought closer together than heretofore possible. In addition, the encapsulation structure physically protects the bezel and sensor die, and in particular maintains the spacing therebetween, in a fashion not possible by currently known device designs.”
If Apple unveils an iPhone 5S with a built-in fingerprint sensor it may quiet claims that the company has lost its ability to innovate — though we’ve seen fingerprint scanners in phones before. However, none of the leaked parts for the upcoming handset so far have suggested the new technology will be implemented, leading us to believe we’ll have to wait until next year at the very least for any real innovation of the iPhone’s external hardware.