11th September 2013
Apple has just launched its new smartphone lineup, which according to some may mark the beginning of the end for passwords on mobile devices.
A high number of phone and tablet users still do not protect their devices with a password on PIN, making them easy pickings for criminals intending to steal them … and the information contained on them. Not only that, but the number of passwords and PINs we need to remember in order to protect ourselves online often makes it challenging to remember which ones we have allocated to particular tasks.
The higher specification of the two models – the iPhone 5S – features a fingerprint sensor built into its 'home' button, enabling the device to identify the user. The 'Touch ID' facility can be used to unlock the phone as well as providing authentication for purchases from the Apple Store. According to Apple, the sensor – identified by a thin metal ring around the outside of the familiar round button – "uses advanced capacative touch to take, in essence, a high-resolution image of your fingerprint from the sub-epidermal layers of your skin. It then intelligently analyses this information with a remarkable degree of detail and precision." The sensor is covered in sapphire crystal, a very hard material, which it says will prevent scratches which would affect its performance.
A spokesperson from technology consultancy Juniper Research commented: "Touch ID is actually quite an elegant solution to an ever more significant problem: namely, the theft of mobile devices and, perhaps even more critically, the information stored on those devices. Many people haven't yet bothered to implement any kind of security solution on their handsets and for those who have, securing handsets with PIN authorisations can be quite a time-consuming process."
It is also thought that the feature may give hestitant consumers more confidence when shopping and banking online.
Mobile phone manufacturer Motorola added fngerprint authentication to its Atrix handset in 2011, but it was accompanied by a high number of user issues.
Apple acquired fingerprint ID technology firm AuthenTec in 2012, so this introduction has been widely expected.