Touch ID is the future, so when are we getting it on the iPad and Mac?

Touch ID is the future, so when are we getting it on the iPad and Mac?

With the iPhone 5s, Apple has introduced the first, functional, mainstream fingerprint ID sensor - Touch ID. With it, the touch of your finger activates a scanner that reads the living, sub-dermal layer for ridges, arches, and whorls, transfers the data to a secure enclave on the brand new Apple A7 processor, and then returns a simple yes/know response to unlock the phone or authorize an iTunes transaction. Once you get used to how easy and utterly transparent it is, you start to want it everywhere, and you don't stop. How about the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2, rumored to be coming this October? How about the Mac?

It just authenticates

So far, based on all of our tests with multiple people on multiple devices, Touch ID just works. It works so well when you try a device without Touch ID, you become instantly annoyed it doesn't have it. It works so well even Mobile Nations luminaries from other platforms, like Kevin Michaluk want it on all things, immediately.

That's human nature. We're content with what we have only for as long as it takes us to realize we want more of it. Eating the best pie in the world, we'll stop enjoying it and start trying to figure out how we'll get another piece. Our minds, always to the future, never on where we are now.

So, then, to that future, and the future of Touch ID, and where we want it: Everywhere, starting on the iPad, iPad mini, and iPod touch, and, of course, the Mac. What are the technical considerations, and how likely is it to be coming any time soon?

Touch ID on the iPad 5

The iPad 5 is the easiest to imagine. If it gets an Apple A7 or Apple A7X processor - same as the iPhone 5s, or potentially with quad-core graphics to support the additional pixels of the iPad's 2048x1536 Retina display - it should get the secure enclave that comes with it. Then it's just down to Apple adding the Touch ID sensor. The pipe dream here is multiple account support - different finger prints would authorize different users into different environments. That's far less likely. iOS 7 just launched without any sign of that feature, public or discovered so far in private, and the way iOS currently works doesn't make it look like an easy or quick thing to add. Still, the basic new flagship functionality makes sense to add to the new flagship iPad.

Touch ID on the iPad mini 2

The iPad mini is a little tougher to figure out. Last year's iPad mini didn't get the Apple A6 processor, instead it got the year-old Apple A5. That was fine, since it was the same chip as the iPad 2 and the iPad mini was essentially a variant of the iPad 2 line. It wasn't Retina like the iPad 4. If Apple brings Retina to the next iPad mini, would they try and do it with an Apple A6 or A6X, or would they go all out with an Apple A7 series chip? If the former, it would keep costs down and keep differentiation up - the big iPad would remain the top-of-the-line iPad - but it would prevent Touch ID from being present. If the latter, then, like the iPad 5, Touch ID would certainly be a possibility and low end vs. high end positioning would remain the only consideration.

Touch ID on the iPod touch

Like the iPad mini, the iPod touch currently uses the Apple A5 processor. It's not clear Apple's going to update the existing models this year, and if they did, it's not clear Apple would bump them to A7 processors if they did. Maybe next year?

Touch ID on the Mac

The Mac is a whole other kettle of fish. Literally. It doesn't - yet - run on Apple's A-series processor line, but on Intel's hardware, and it doesn't have a Home button. It's conceivable Apple could create a custom Touch ID chip for Macs that replicates just that functionality from the Apple A7. It's also conceivable Apple could replace the power button on existing iMacs and Mac Minis, and on the new Mac Pros with something that combines Home button-style functionality with power button functionality. MacBooks have lost that button in recent generations, moving its job to a keyboard key, so that would have to be reverted. Or, some type of distinct Touch ID button could be added.

While Apple trackpads are capacitive glass, like the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, only MacBooks ship with those built in, and requiring a Magic Trackpad could be onerous. Also, Apple didn't add the Touch ID to the display on iOS devices because you touch it all the time, not just for unlock or authorization, so sticking Touch ID into something else you touch all the time, namely a trackpad, probably isn't the best solution either, and for the same reasons.

Likewise, Trusted Bluetooth Device - where an authenticated iOS device being present simply unlocks the OS X device - is a great technology, but something that could and hopefully will exist layered with direct auth.

The future of touch

With the original iPhone, Apple made multitouch interface mainstream. It was limited to one device and one very specific set of tasks, but for the first time everyone from the geekiest of geeks to the most tech averse of non-technical people could use mobile devices in a way that not only worked, but delighted.

Now, with the iPhone 5s, Apple has expanded the power, intimacy,and immediacy of touch to authentication and authorization. It's currently just as limited to one device and one very specific set of tasks, but there's every reason to believe it'll take off and grow every bit as much. There are legitimate privacy and security concerns, and everyone will have to decide for themselves whether the convenience of Touch ID makes it worthwhile.

For those who do, however, for those who want to go all-in, the iPad and eventually the Mac just make sense as the next leaps forward.

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November, 2013

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 25 comments. Add yours.

Munale says:

Probably a silly question but is using touch Id on the 5s optional?

Rene Ritchie says:

Absolutely optional. Turn it off, you have passcode, password, or nothing, just like any other iOS device.

KCMike says:

In today's world of mega-surveillance, this idea is really scary. I'm sure Apple doesn't have malicious intentions, but what about when the NSA comes knocking at their door? It's something to think about.

kch50428 says:

The NSA can already get anything they want on you. They already have if there was a need to surveil you. They don't need Apple's TouchID.

rickg1 says:

The finger print is not sent to Apple. Of course, people can put on their tinfoil hats and say "Oh, sure it isn't..." but at that point you've jumped down the rabbit hole and can posit anything you want.

On topic, I don't see this as compelling for the Mac at all so I doubt it will come to the Mac line for a long time if ever. I'm hoping the hypothetical Retina Mini gets the A7. I've never considered the Mini the low end model of the iPad line, it's just a different form factor so that reasoning on Apple's part would annoy me. Plus, I'm thinking of selling the iPad 3 I have for a Retina Mini if it is released and is nice.

Kevin Michaluk says:

Having used Touch ID for 24 hours, I can honestly say I'm already sold on it. Makes a world of difference in user experience when you do something like enter your password a gabillion times a day. I just wake the 5s with the home button, hold just a fraction of a moment and I'm in. No stupid password screen. Has worked flawlessly so far.

Now I'm angry I have to type my password onto my Macbook Pro every time I use it. Would love to see Touch ID there next.

richbayliss says:

Or how about an app to unlock your MacBook FROM your iPhone with Touch ID, since most people keep their phones within reach.

Just a thought :-)

Phantisy says:

To bad your finger print can never be changed and anyone can get it. Plus how do you protect your device while sleeping? Hide it? Because your finger can be used while sleeping.

rickg1 says:

Speaking of tinfoil hats.... (read up on the tech... you cannot use a finger print it has to be your finger and no, you can't use dead fingers).

M.Rizk says:

He said he will be sleeping... NOT DEAD. lol

His idea applies to naughty kids who want to get access to their dad's iPhone, or cute little ones who don't want to wake you up... Or your wife trying to act worse than NSA..

Justin Koenig says:

I can't wait to open and start my car with touch id.

Pete M says:

Ha, that's a great idea. I would also love to see Touch ID built into my Macbook's power button. I absolutely see this as the future of security on Apple's platform - not security from the NSA, necessarily, but from ordinary snooping and theft. I am, frankly, amazed at how well this technology works after playing with it since yesterday morning.

Becjr says:

I'd like to see this type of security on all Apple devices one day, the biggest concern I have, particularly on the mobile devices, is that I always protect them with a case (usually Lifeproof)... This kinda puts a damper on the touch authentication functionality.

I can't imagine how comfortable it could be to have to find the power/touch button on the back of a iMac to authenticate and I would think Apple engineers would be smart enough to NOT place such technology on the front of the machine - where the screen angle would constantly move away from your finger while trying to authenticate. ... I would think a spot on the iMac's base/stand would be a great spot for a feature like this.

Sent from the iMore App

Carioca32 says:

I see fingerprint scanners in almost every business, airport and university I go. Banks use them on ATMs. Gyms use them for admission. I've seen them on coutless notebooks. Is that not mainstream enough, does it really requires Apple to make something mainstream?

Rene, what are your thoughts now on the 32gb 5c which costs the same as a Touch id enabled 5s 16Gb, is it a viable product? Is Touch id worth 100 bucks?

CrzyP says:

This would be even more handy in the future if Apple enabled APIs to work with mobile banking apps.

rdstryr says:

"then returns a simple yes/know response"
Typo!

Sent from the iMore App

Gazoobee says:

I don't see any real use for TouchID on the iMac as they are used in a completely different way. Someday perhaps but not in the near future.

My real worry is the iPad mini, which is my main device. I think it's a no brainer to use the A7 or A7x and TouchID, but my fear is that Apple will do the a-hole thing and leave it out of the mini only to release a much more expensive "mini-Pro" mid 2014.

I think they've shown with the recent iPhones that they don't care about affordability or putting good devices in people's hands and are much more focussed on the profit, so I'm expecting they will fail to do the right thing here.

rutinerad says:

I doubt that - the iPad is the iPad Mini Pro.

Apple do care about putting _good_ devices in people´s hands. That's why the iPhone 5C is not a cheap piece of crap and that's why they never build a netbook. But they are not a charity.

Harry Millward says:

Bollocks, there are plenty of functional mainstream fingerprint ID scanners (I have one to sign in at my job) this is simply the first one on an iPhone!

Meatwagon McMeat says:

What's wrong with putting a sensor along the top of the Magic Trackpad?

Likely, as others have already mentioned, I can imagine being able to use your iPhone TouchID in conjunction with the Mac.

Or maybe it might show up on a smart watch via Bluetooth 4.0? "Authentication required. Please touch your iWatch band."

Also:

"The Mac is a whole other kettle of fish. Literally."

Unless you are cooking fish in your Mac, no, not literally.

abazigal says:

I recall reading somewhere that the fingerprint scanner is the bottleneck constraining supplies of the iphone5s. We will probably see it in the ipad next year soonest, when supply stabilises.

Dionte says:

It would be nice on the iPad 5.

codehut says:

I think we'll see it pretty soon IMO.

Sent from the iMore App

Harish Chengaiah says:

Rene i have a question to you, i am a iPod touch lover, and if iPod touch 6 is getting released next year would it use A6 or A7 chip

theegooch says:

This would be great on my Macbook. Being a multi-tasker, I often will start doing something on my Macbook, go to work on something else for 15min to an hour, and then return to continue what I was doing. Having to type my password in every time or run a program that prevents the computer from locking when at home, like Caffeine, is a pain. If I could just swipe my finger to unlock it, it would be a huge relief!

I often disable the password lock on my phone for the same reason. Which I is why I look forward to getting the iPhone 6/6s ( my next iPhone from the 5 ) which will have it.

For people who are prone to forget their computer/phone in public areas, they could set up another security vector by requiring both a pin(something you know ) and a fingerprint scan(something about you) to access the device, application, or information.