The new MacBook's Touch ID sensor could pave the way for under-display scanning in a future iPhone

16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard
16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard (Image credit: 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.

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.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9