16-inch MacBook Pro KeyboardSource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

What you need to know

  • An Apple Patent has revealed tech for an under-display Touch ID sensor.
  • The system is based on an optical, rather than a capacitive fingerprint reader.
  • It's the same technology found in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple has been awarded a patent for an optical fingerprint reader that could one day be used for an under-display fingerprint reader in the iPhone.

The patent is titled 'Electronic device including sequential operation of light source subsets while acquiring biometric image data and related methods'. The patent is based around technology that allows the optical reading of fingerprints. Previously, Apple's iPhones and current 13/15-inch MacBooks used capacitive touch to read fingerprints. However, this latest patent is for an optical system, like the one found in the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

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The description for the patent includes the following regarding an under-display sensor:

An optical image sensor is carried by the housing under the display. The optical image sensor senses biometric image data associated with a user, such as, for example, data representative of a biometric image of the fingerprint patterns of the user's finger. The controller may perform an authentication function by matching the acquired biometric image data to the stored biometric template data stored in the memory, for example. The controller may perform and/or restrict the functionality of the electronic device based upon the authentication as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. In some embodiments, there may be more than one optical image sensor.

Previous rumors had suggested that Apple may bring back Touch ID in the form of a sensor built into the display of the iPhone in 2020. Either as a standalone feature or coexisting with Face ID. Certainly, this patent and the inclusion of the tech in the 16-Inch MacBook Pro proves that Apple has all the tools necessary to make under-display Touch ID a reality.

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