Apple patent shows that you shouldn’t count Touch ID out just yet

Apple’s new iPhone X, which goes on sale in October, will sport cutting-edge facial recognition technology dubbed “Face ID” KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that, if it’s a hit, we’ll see it replacing Touch ID on future iPhones and iPads. If it’s not a big hit, expect to see iOS devices sporting Face ID and Touch ID.

Don’t count Touch ID out just yet. Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,772,721) for “ultrasound-based force sensing and touch sensing” that hints at iPhones and iPads with Touch ID implemented under the screen itself rather than via a button.

Touch ID patent.jpeg

In the patent filing, Apple notes that ,when interfacing with a graphical user interface (like iOS) or with an app, it can be advantageous for the user to be able to indicate an amount of force applied when manipulating, moving, pointing to, touching, or otherwise interacting with, a touch device. For example, it might be handy to be able to manipulate a screen element or other object in a first way with a relatively lighter touch, or in a second way with a relatively more forceful or sharper touch. 

Apple says that, in one such case, a it might be advantageous if the user could move a screen element or other object with a relatively lighter touch, while the user could alternatively invoke or select that same screen element or other object with a relatively more forceful or sharper touch. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “An input/output device for a computing device including one or more touch sensors and one or more force sensors. The touch sensors sense data including one or more locations at which a contact or near-contact occurs. The force sensor sense data including a measure of an amount of force presented at the one or more locations at which a contact occurs. 

“The touch sensors and the force sensors responsive to signals occurring in response to whether the signals are in response to contact or in response to an amount of force. The input/output device also includes one or more circuits coupled to the touch sensors and to the force sensors, and capable of combining information from both sensors.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.