In Depth

New Apple iPhone 'to feature biometric fingerprint scanner'

Fingerprint code found in test version of iOS 7 suggests intriguing new feature

THE APPLE rumour-mill has sprung into action ahead of the anticipated launch of a new iPhone later this year, with talk that it could feature a fingerprint scanner. The suggestion comes after an app developer spotted a string of code in the new operating system iOS7, which is currently in beta testing. It mentions "a fingerprint that changes colour during the setup process" while the line above that talks about a "photo of a person holding an iPhone with their left hand while touching the Home button with their thumb". The developer, who is called Hamza Sood and comes from London, posted a picture of the code on Twitter along with an image of the folder in which it was found, entitled 'BiometricKitUI'. Apple has been linked to fingerprint technology in the past but has so far failed to come up with a device that uses it. "If the rumours are true, the latest iPhone will be the first Apple product to feature such a sensor, which could be used for unlocking the homescreen or confirming identity for payment from the App Store or other outlets," reports the Daily Telegraph. "Any sensor would likely be embedded into the physical home button." The development comes a year after Apple paid $356m to buy security company AuthenTec, which specialises in biometric technologies. Earlier this year there were reports from Taiwan that the company was trying to develop a coating material that was compatible with a fingerprint reader. It was claimed that it could even delay the launch of a new iPhone model. The Daily Mail points out that other manufacturers already use biometrics. Motorola and Lenovo use it on some of their products while Samsung has incorporated face-recognition technology. However, Apple's entry into the market could be a game changer. "PayPal's chief information security officer Michael Barrett claimed fingerprint scanners could spell the end of modern-day passwords and the technology would become more popular once Apple introduces it to one of its products," reported the paper. Website ZDNet reports: "A biometric fingerprint sensor would definitely give the iPhone a leg up on the competition, at least initially." But it adds that Samsung took out a patent on a similar feature in 2012, and suggests Apple's move could "initiate another patent war". But don't hold your breath, warns tech site Cnet. "Details inside unreleased versions of Apple's code do not always come to fruition immediately," it says. "In this case, Apple's next iPhones are expected to be a few months away, making this discovery more curious."

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