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back to article Lingering fingerprint fingering fingered in iOS 7 for NEW iPHONE

A London-based programmer has found a reference to fingerprint-recognition technology in a beta build of Apple's new iOS 7 for iThings. Hamza Sood grabbed a load from text from a folder called BiometricKitUI within the Accessibility Bundles in the Library directory of the new operating system. The software is in the hands of app …

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I think that was one of the hardest to read titles I've come across for a while... and I'm not going to even try to read it fast repeatedly! :)

Interesting note about holding the device with left or right hand and reflecting that on a help screen. I haven't spotted these devices being sensitive to handedness, is this something new or something I just haven't spotted?

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Facepalm

Once again Apple tells its users what they want

No talk of NFC, large screens, widgets or proper multitasking. Nope, instead Apple has decided a fingerprint recognizer is what it needs to turn around its declining fortunes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Once again Apple tells its users what they want

"No talk of NFC, large screens, widgets or proper multitasking."

NFC--I've yet to see a killer application for this. The people I know who are very excited about NFC hardly ever use it in my presence, and when they do, it's just to bonk web pages to each other, and it takes at least a few seconds to get the phones aligned correctly. Sharing a web page can be accomplished almost as fast via SMS. If you rely on NFC so much that it's a must-have feature for you, please share what you do with it. I'm genuinely interested.

Large screens--It's a phone, why does it need a huge screen? If you need a large screen, buy an iPad.

Widgets--Meh. Largely addressed in iOS 7. Pull down to see weather, calendar, stocks, notifications. Pull up to control flashlight, volume, etc. etc.

Multitasking--As much as I disliked Apple's implementation of "multitasking" when it was introduced, I have yet to experience a scenario where it isn't sufficient for my needs. I often use a 3rd party podcast playing app in the background while I'm using a 3rd party turn-by-turn app in the background while I'm doing something in the foreground, like texting, checking email, or reading a web page. Everything works fine. And I receive immediate notifications of new messages from 3 different messaging apps (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Skype) regardless of whether or not they're running in the foreground.

Meanwhile, being able to start using my phone simply by pressing on the home button (without having to enter a passcode or even without having to swipe) thanks to a fingerprint scanner would be a meaningful improvement to my day-to-day life, considering how many times per day I have to go through this process.

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Re: Once again Apple tells its users what they want

I have yet to experience a scenario where it isn't sufficient for my needs.

so sad that you should so so limited in your creativity... and not even understand why.

thanks to a fingerprint scanner would be a meaningful improvement to my day-to-day life

had a lappie with this chunk of hardware bloat on it. waaaaaaay more trouble than its worth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Once again Apple tells its users what they want

>>I have yet to experience a scenario where it isn't sufficient for my needs.

>so sad that you should so so limited in your creativity... and not even understand why.

You lead a pretty sorry life if your creative outlet is running two things on your phone at once.

>>thanks to a fingerprint scanner would be a meaningful improvement to my day-to-day life

>had a lappie with this chunk of hardware bloat on it. waaaaaaay more trouble than its worth.

So your theory is that Apple is going to put the fingerprint scanner from your old laptop in a new iPhone?

I assume Apple will put a fingerprint scanner in the home button and you will be able to press it as you always have and it will read your fingerprint at that time, and likely allow you to start using the phone without any other actions (passcode, swipe, etc.). Or at least that's what I'm hoping for.

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I think there's an internal Reg competition

For best/toughest tongue-twisting headline.

More of this silliness!

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Re: I think there's an internal Reg competition

It was actually explained somewhere else on the site a few days ago that they have a crack team of highly skilled headline bitches in their basements!

This isint a joke either, this was the official line from an El Reg head honcho! - well maybe not head honcho - I cannot remember who, some person who writes stuff here, I forget their names, its all to easy to when the headlines are so great! who pays attention to the actual authors and the stories with headlines like this!

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Anonymous Coward

So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

Or is it to make each device 'personal' - Will only work with the 'registered' print so each user needs their own device?

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

I think you've nailed it but I don't think it's surveillance related. This will cut down on sharing your iThing amongst family & school groups and such. Now everybody will have to have their own personal device.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

"This will cut down on sharing your iThing amongst family & school groups and such."

I assume this will be a convenience feature. You will be able to start using your phone immediately by pressing the home button once. No passcodes, no swiping.

If somebody else tries to use your phone, they will have to enter your passcode, as before.

Otherwise Apple is opening itself up to lawsuits if e.g. family members aren't able to access your phone while you're incapacitated for some reason, etc.

There are some other interesting possibilities too, e.g., being able to quickly switch to your own Game Center account via fingerprint scan. Also, there are some apps that securely store information like passwords and documents that could give you the option to log in via fingerprint rather than password.

It's a shame that people immediately jump to the conclusion that this will be some kind of moneymaking ploy on Apple's part.

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

Anytime you are discussing a publicly traded company it is always safe to assume there's a financial hook involved somewhere.

Maybe I'm wrong and the Great Benevolent Fruit Farmers are offering a simple convenience feature. But I'm going to side with history and the general principals of greed on this.

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Meh

Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

"I think you've nailed it but I don't think it's surveillance related."

But sadly, it will be. If "they" are already using the GPS to track people, governments will surely use this as well. Think about it. Not only do you have an exact location, but also a high probability of exact identity. Win Win. It's a no brainer for the NSA or anyone else looking to track someone.

Remember, it tracks ALL fingerprints, not just the ones that are valid! So for instance if your child hands you the phone, your child's fingerprint is recorded. And as we have recently learned, Apple or any company can be forced to lie and state it doesn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

"Maybe I'm wrong and the Great Benevolent Fruit Farmers are offering a simple convenience feature. But I'm going to side with history and the general principals of greed on this."

It's a sensor. Did you have similar conspiracy ideas about the cameras or accelerometers that Apple includes with its devices?

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

I love how Apple haters try to spin everything as a money grab by Apple. They said the same thing about the Lightning port, but Apple never did anything to stop cheap clones of cables like they said they would. There's no way Apple is going to only allow one registered fingerprint, or that using the fingerprint capability at all will be required.

The haters complain Apple doesn't innovate, now it looks like they're going to innovate away the need for PINs/passwords on phones. Consider the fact that this is going into the developer kit - meaning ALL apps will have access to the fingerprint sensor. That means any app that uses a password now could theoretically do away with it - or keep it but use the fingerprint sensor to augment the existing security.

This assumes the technology they acquired from Authentec actually fixes the various security shortcomings almost all fingerprint sensors suffer from. But even if it wasn't secure enough to use for your banking, for most people who just want to keep their phone safe from prying eyes it should be more convenient and more secure than the typical PIN/password type stuff that is easy to overcome if you watch someone unlock their phone enough times.

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

You might be jumping the gun here. You replied in a thread that has no visible hatred towards Apple specifically, but is just stating the obvious about corporations in general, not Apple specific. I'm worried about the identity collection and others are worried about large corps. performing lock in, both points are not Apple specific and are not meant to be. To be honest, you are the first to make it Apple specific.

...so if you must :-)

If finger printing is innovative, through any application, someone needs to dig up some dead doctor or ancient historian and thank them, because this has been going on for a WHILE. Of course, when Apple decides to collect identities and lock people in, it's white glove claps all around. Yeh....real great... :-/

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

I was responding to the "so each user needs their own device" from the original post in the thread. The meaning of that seemed rather clear.

As for the rest of your comment, people don't seem to understand the difference between the words innovation and invention. No, Apple can't invent the fingerprint reader, because it was invented decades ago. They are making it useful for new things without compromising the existing design and usage model of the device it is being added to. There has been at least one phone already that included a fingerprint reader, but adding the cheap easily fooled sensor typically used in laptops to the side of a phone didn't add anything to the device, which is why even high end phones with lengthy feature lists haven't included one since. But if Apple is successful with theirs, you can bet it'll become standard equipment on all higher end phones within a year.

By embedding the sensor in the home button (or according to some reports, inside the touch screen itself, though I think it would be less useful there) the fingerprint can be read by the same actions you use to unlock your phone, so a PIN or password isn't needed. If the reader was located elsewhere it would merely replace one separate action to authenticate yourself with another. It also has to be fairly durable, able to take some knocking around and getting a bit dirty while still operating dozens or hundreds of times a day. And it must be accurate - if you need to press your finger 2 or 3 times very often you won't be finding it very useful.

I am assuming there are much bigger plans for it than to save 2 seconds every time you unlock your phone. That would be merely a "look, see what my phone can do" gimmick sort of like waving your hand over the phone to answer it. I'm guessing the plan is to tie it in with Passbook for mobile payments or something along those lines. Not right away, of course, since they'll want to make sure it really is as durable and secure as they hope first :)

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Re: So, Apple are are adding more <NSA><CIA><DHS> friendly 'identikit' features?

WARNING: This is a ramble, I'm presently bored :-/

"...people don't seem to understand the difference between the words innovation and invention"

OK, I'm guilty a bit of that misunderstanding, but is it even innovation?

Webster's has this...

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: the introduction of something new

2

: a new idea, method, or device

It is arguable here that it is a new method, but then you have to be specific to smartphones. But with that understanding then it is innovative for any product: Toasters, shoes, door knobs, etc. Could it really be innovative if it can be that applicable? To me, honestly, it is just migrating tech around. For instance, if someone put a fingerprint scanner on a GPS, I would not consider that innovation.

To try and explain my thinking, innovation through combining existing technologies (or whatever) would be to add Black and White together to get Grey. However, the fingerprinting thing-a-majig seems more like putting Black on top of White. Nothing really new in any sense comes of this. Well, the idea of anyone touching a household device and having their fingerprint record is new, but I'm not sure in a good way.

P.S. Wikipedia seems to be doing their own thing, they have a complete different take than any other source on the word "innovation". Theirs mentions marketing heavily, along with needs.

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@MyBackDoor - innovation vs. invention

So, basing this on the published rumors and my assumptions, the innovations here would be Apple integrating the reader into the home button - it would be touched hundreds of times a day, in a phone that gets dropped, gets touched with sweaty and dirty fingers, etc. but still needs to be able to read your fingerprint pretty reliably. If it takes several attempts each time you want to unlock your phone, most will turn it off and go back to using a PIN.

If you ever played with the fingerprint reader on your laptop, you know what utter pieces of shit the common 'swipe' variety are, and they don't use the impression variety because they cost more - Apple will have had to massively drive down the cost of that type in order to include it in a phone that is typically sold at a $200 BOM. There may be some invention required here also, in this case by the former Authentec employees.

The other part of the innovation would be to make it useful to do something beyond just unlocking your phone. That's nice, but it really only saves two seconds and makes your phone safe from shoulder surfing. If that's all it does, it is just a gimmick.

But if you could use it to approve mobile payments (possibly using NFC, though bluetooth or wifi would also work) or used by your banking app in place of entering a password, or used by the security entrance to your building, etc. then it would be more useful. Consider just the mobile payment case. If you want secure mobile payments, you need to authenticate yourself to the phone when you approve the charge - otherwise anyone who steals your phone can buy stuff with it. But you don't want to have to enter a pin and risk dropping your phone or the stuff you have in your other hand. A simple button press that authenticates you and accepts the charge solves the problem nicely, and could be done without even taking the phone out of your pocket unless it is using NFC (unless the reader is at hip level and you can sort of rub up against it lol)

All this would take a ton of legwork to set up and provide a simple seamless experience for the user, not only do you need to get all the developer APIs in place (which they've already done) but you need to talk to payment processors, major banks, companies that make biometric security equipment etc. and do a lot of joint development work with them to make it work smoothly. If you wonder why mobile payments are about 0.00001% of sales in the US, it is because no one has done this - just adding an NFC chip to a phone isn't innovating anything, it is just adding a feature to a phone and leaving it up to someone else to figure out a way to make it useful.

As many have pointed out, the Motorola Atrix had a fingerprint scanner. It was the only phone (that I know of) that had one, because they just glued one of the cheap swipe models onto the side of their phone sort of like NFC chips are slapped into phones now, without doing any sort of innovation to make it actually useful. Since it wasn't useful no one else "copied" this "innovation". If Apple adds a fingerprint scanner and makes it useful, many people will say that Apple copied the Atrix, when it will really be all the Android phones that later add fingerprint scanners that will be copying Apple - copying Apple's innovation of making the fingerprint scanner useful by doing much more than just sticking one on a phone.

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Great until...

...the home button breaks. Which even the most die-hard fanboi would have to admit happens more regularly than most people would like.

Presumably thought it'd act like Android Face Unlock - if it fails, it'll fall back to a PIN/lock pattern which you had to set up when you enrolled the fingerprint.

Steven R

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Re: Great until...

Depends how they implement it; the (in my personal experience, quite frequent) home button failures are to do with moving parts whereas a fingerprint scanner — at least the sort you usually see on laptops — doesn't have any moving parts. So I guess it depends on what's going to happen to the button overall.

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Thumb Up

To hell with the story...

... thumbs up to your sub-editor for his sub-stantially sub-lime sub-versive, sub-headline! (Now to hit sub-mit...)

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Gimp

Nothing to see here...

The Motorola Atrix had a fingerprint sensor 2 or 3 years ago.

It's hardly an innovation.

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Re: Nothing to see here...

It will be an innovation if the damn thing works seamlessly, and doesn't require you to 'scan' your finger along it and fail if you either go too fast, or too slow, or finger too greasy....

I too have had finger print enabled security kit for some time - it's all been shit. If this works, it would be pretty neat.

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Joke

@ Ross K - Re: Nothing to see here...

Uh-Oh. Google is going to regret that, when Apple will have invented this earlier in a future iPhone and will then apply for a holding order for available and possible future devices by reason of conceivable future (retro-)infringement of a later occurring earlier example of the technology used in those.

Is there a textbook on time-warp grammar in reality-distortion-field cases?

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Re: Nothing to see here...

This - I too have had finger print enabled security kit for some time - it's all been shit. If this works, it would be pretty neat.

it would need to work alongside the existing lock - press and hold to scan finger, tap to bring up lock screen. otherwise same old problems, gloves, loss of fingerprint through wear and tear, what if I'm driving and want the wife to make/answer a call.

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Samaritan mode, anyone?

How many times have we wanted to lend our phone out of sympathy, but chafed at doing so because the one we're helping could rummage through our device?

Just lock the phone and then tell the "samaritee" to submit a scanned print, the print is uploaded to the server of choice or the ISP, and then the user presses a "Samaritan" button. All calls would be forcibly limited to local or emergency, and all would be subject to recording. If the phone is not returned to the owner within the time secretly set by the owner, and disarmed in that timeframe, then the local police would be silently dispatched to the cell's location.

I wonder how many lost phone, Samsung, Apple, or Google people thought of this. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't.

But, now, as a rule, I WILL NOT share my phone with ANYONE whom I do not know or whom I do not want rummaging through my phone to peruse or delete things or surreptitious install on my phone something not friendly to me.

Sounds easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to refine. Would prevent or at least reduce misuse of the device, make it virtually worthless to steal (unless stolen for parts or can be reprogrammed, or is stolen to cause economic and psychological grief to the owner), and would reduce political wrangling and tech resistance.

Somebody, widely disseminate this to ensure it is committed to the Open Source realm if it is not yet patented or copyrighted the way I have envisaged.

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Re: Samaritan mode, anyone?

I just take a Big Brother approach to lending the phone. I'm always within a foot of the person. If they don't want me to overhear the conversation, they don't get to use the phone. I do the dialing and don't pass the phone until I hear ringing. And as soon as the call ends, I politely but firmly request the phone back. To date I haven't had any problems. My home screen has no personal data on it (just apps and a time/weather widget), and I don't allow enough time or opportunity to peek. As for someone trying to run off with the phone, well that's why I keep within a foot of the person.

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It is a good idea

I hate apple as much as the next guy. But I think, if well implemented, this is a very good idea, albeit not an original one.

Best usage scenario, you are involved in a car accident and are Knocked out, the paramedics/Good Samaritan recover your phone. Should it have a PIN/Pattern lock on it it would be no use to them, even face unlock requires you to blink. But with a fingerprint sensor they can use your finger (assuming it is still attached) to unlock it (if medically safe to do so) and contact your loved ones to let them know sooner than having the hospital staff do it when you're admitted. They can also use your phone to identify you in lieu of any photo ID.

Obviously one would hope that such an accident is a rare occurrence in your life and you would primarily be unlocking the phone yourself. As such it is important that the fingerprint unlock works as fast or faster than using PIN/Pattern. This is where Face unlock failed. The gimmick was great but it took longer than conventional methods.

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Windows

Another example where Microsoft missed the boat..

Before my current Windows Phone 7.5 I used to have a PDA / cellphone alike device called the Toshiba Portege G900. Guess what? It came equiped with a fingerprint scanner as well, and it worked quite well too.

Unfortunately, like so many other things, support for this scanner was near to nill. You most certainly couldn't unlock your phone with a swipe or make a successful swipe perform other feats. No, it was a present feature but never used fully. So basically you could unlock your phone with both your pin code and swiping your fingers. Which only made it much harder, so why bother?

So if this takes off then forgive me for laughing at yet another display of Microsoft having a pretty solid feature yet totally unaware what to do with it or build it to its maximum potential.

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