In-display fingerprint scanners may not be a common sight on budget smartphones just yet but they have become quite the norm when it comes to Android flagships. Apple has been granted a patent that describes a new technology that could allow the iPhone maker to include an in-display fingerprint sensor on its smartphones. The patent, which is titled “Methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces”, was filed by the company back in 2016 and has just been approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The patent describes the company’s invention around acoustic imaging system. It is unclear if the company will actually use the technology in a commercially available device as since 2016, Apple has moved its focus to Face ID instead of Touch ID.
The patent showcases “methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces”, which directly relate to an acoustic imaging system. Using this newly patented technique, a high-resolution image of an object can be mapped, in this case, a fingerprint. Since Apple has never used an in-display fingerprint scanner in any of its devices yet, this patent getting published may be a start.
As per the patent, an acoustic transducer is configured to generate acoustic outputs in response to a signal from a controller. The outputs may be in the form of mechanical waves or pulses, and they will be coded with the help of the controller.
To obtain the image of the fingerprint, the acoustic imaging system can use a multitude of techniques, including reflection, diffraction and transmission. Further notes from the patent state that the acoustic imaging system can also be used to map biometrically unique features of the fingers like size, shape and skin patterns.
The patent also aligns with Apple’s strategy of gathering more medical data of users and helping them stay fit through devices like Apple Watch. The technology is described as capable of recording vitals of a person like heart and respiration rates. Since the patent describes Apple adding an in-display fingerprint sensor does not mean that the company will be bringing one to an iPhone immediately.
In the past, Apple has received patent for several other technological features, which have never made it to a retail device. With Apple having set the future of iPhone into an all-screen device and Face ID becoming the de facto standard of authentication, there is a possibility that this patent only describes technological validity of such a feature. It could even be possible that Apple tried this technology around the launch of iPhone X but could not get it ready in time and then decided to go with Face ID instead.