Apple Offers Old Fingerprint Scanners As New iPhone “Magic”
Fingerprint scanners have been around for decades, earning a well-deserved reputation for being unreliable as a security measure. Way back in 2009 the Ontario Science Centre featured them in their Science of Spying exhibit and staff there used to delight in teaching kids how to lift fingerprints and bypass the scanners using nothing more than a melted gummi bear.
Just this week I wrote about Toronto-based Bionym, a company that is hoping to take advantage of the fingerprint’s weakness by offering a more secure system based on heartbeats. Both suffer the issue that, once compromised, they can’t be changed or replaced like a password and to Bionym’s credit they openly acknowledge the issue as one they are working on.
For years many business laptops sold with fingerprint scanners were shipped with the warning that they were not secure and should be used for convenience only. It was an attempt by Microsoft and others to inject some cool in their business products and it failed.
So why would Apple, currently under much criticism for lacking real innovation, include some terribly old and unreliable novelty tech into their flagship device, the gold/silver-gleaming iPhone 5s?
From their own Touch ID presentation, here’s Senior VP of Design Jony Ive:
“It’s not just rampant technology for technology’s sake. Every single component….has been considered and measured to be truly useful. It actually enhances the user’s experience.”
Great. They anticipated the concerns. So how is their use of it different?
“This care, this consideration extends to how we protect all the important information that you actually carry with your on your iPhone”.
So wait, while everyone else in the industry has been careful not to use them for security, Apple will? Yes, in their presentation they show how you can use it to make iTunes purchases. Their product pages lists it as “highly secure”.
They explain how they have developed the scanner using some of the most advanced hardware and software at their disposal, that their version can recognize your fingerprint from any orientation (upside down, etc.) and through repeated scanning will do a better job of recognizing your fingerprint. What they haven’t said is if their version is more secure than others somehow. That’s simply inferred. Once the iPhone 5s is released you can bet the industry will put that claim to the test.
But how is it cool? For the many who are hungry after Apple’s continued promise of innovation, it’s important.
“Put your finger on the Home button, and just like that your iPhone unlocks”.
Ive uses the word “effortless” to describe it, suggesting that through sheer convenience and a simplistic design Apple can somehow take that which is old and make it new again.
Coming out of a launch event that offered no other updates or announcements when so many more were anticipated, Jony Ive and his team have their work cut out for them trying to make Touch ID look like a magic touch.