Why Apple’s Under-Display Touch ID Will Be Super Popular

And why you shouldn't hold your breath just yet

  • Apple may be working on under-screen Touch ID for a future iPhone.
  • Both Face ID and Touch ID offer excellent security.
  • Fingerprint and face scanning both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Closeup on someone's finger on a biometric fingerprint scanner.

Francesco Sgura / EyeEM / Getty Images

Don't despair, Touch ID fans–your favorite biometric authentication method might be coming back. 

Some people still really don’t like Face ID, and many of us are still wearing masks. Adding under-display Touch ID would be rad, especially if it comes in addition to Face ID, so you can use one or the other, or both. And the Apple-rumor tea leaves point to an under-screen Touch ID implementation, which means you won't need to go back to that prehistoric home button. The bad news is that we won't see it for at least a few more years. 

"Touch ID is more convenient for certain tasks. It's easier to use when your face is covered by a mask, as is often the case," cybersecurity expert Ahmad Rehman told Lifewire via email. "On the other hand, Face ID has some benefits over Touch ID. It's generally faster and more seamless than Touch ID, as you don't have to physically press a button to unlock your phone."

Under Display Touch ID

The grail for phone authentication is to make it completely invisible without compromising security. One way to do this is to put the sensors underneath the phone screen, so you don't need a separate button with a fingerprint scanner or a hole punched into the display to accommodate a 3D biometric camera. 

Someone wearing a mask, trying to use facial recognition to unlock their phone.

Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

Apple's Touch ID and Face ID are already very secure, especially compared to the many Android phones that can be unlocked by showing them a photograph of the owner. But Apple's emphasis on security may be why it has been slow to adopt under-display technology, which is by its nature a compromise. A camera has to be able to see through the screen's pixels while not interfering with the image created by those pixels. Ditto the fingerprint reader.

"Touch ID has its pros and cons compared to Face ID, the pros of Touch ID are that it works with a mask, smudged camera, or in low light conditions. However, Touch ID fails when your hands are dirty, or if the screen is dirty," Nicholas Sargent, founder of legal defense smartphone app Defense Recorder, told Lifewire via email.

However, supply-chain reports say that Apple will put Face ID under the screen within the next few years, eliminating any notches or punch holes in the display. And after that, possibly, it will also put a new kind of Touch ID sensor under the iPhone's display. 

Touchy Subject

The new sensor uses a combination of visible and infrared light to scan the fingertip, which also means it can detect the user's vein patterns, possibly allowing for even more secure readings. 

Touch ID has several advantages over Face ID, in addition to those already mentioned above. One is that it is harder to trigger accidentally. You must place a finger on a button to authenticate, whereas Face ID can scan you without any user interaction. Of course, this can also be a disadvantage in terms of convenience. Another advantage to having both finger and face authentication is that the phone could require both methods for extra security in sensitive situations. 

Closeup on someone wearing glasses with a reflection of a biometric fingerprint reader in the lenses.

Andrew Brookes / Getty Images

But for me, the thing I miss most about Touch ID is using it with Apple Pay. With Touch ID, you just put the iPhone on or near the credit card machine with your finger on the iPhone's home button. That's it. With Face ID, you have to double-tap the side button, show your face, and only then can you tap to pay. 

On the other hand, It's possible that Touch ID will never come back to the iPhone. After all, Apple already has a version of Touch ID on the iPad that uses the sleep/wake button. Surely, if it wanted to put Touch ID and Face ID in an iPhone together, it could just use that. 

It seems pretty certain that the goal here is to hide any biometric sensors, so they don't encroach on the screen display, and as we have seen, the differences between fingerprints and face scanning pretty much even out. Whichever arrives first will probably be fine for most people.

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