What Could Fingerprint Recognition On An iPhone Actually Be Used For?

iPhone 5 iCloud
One of the biggest rumors surrounding the iPhone 5S has been the inclusion of fingerprint recognition capabilities, likely hidden underneath the Home button of the device. In addition, code strings termed ‘BiometricKitIU’ that were discovered a previous iOS 7 beta have pointed towards Apple’s consideration of Biometric Recognition Systems (BRS) in iOS devices as a likely feature in future releases.  In this article, we take a look at some of the potential uses and applications that biometric recognition in the iPhone could actually be used for.

The first, and perhaps the most obvious use of a fingerprint recognition capabilities would be for a user to log into their device, either by pressing or or moving their finger across a sensor. In the context of the iPhone, which can use numerical code as a lockout mechanism to restrict access to a device, this type of authentication could either replace or augment the existing passcode. However, Biometric Recognition Systems could also be used for login when operating an iPhone, for example, by Apple releasing an API that developers could use to control access to apps or, indeed, app functions.

Another use which has been discussed at length would be the validation of online purchases using BRS. If, for example, a user wanted to make a purchase on Amazon.com using the iOS Amazon app then fingerprint recognition could be used as equivalent validation instead of an Amazon password, again requiring an Apple API to be used by the app. However, BRS could also be used at point of sale for validation in place of a pin number or signature if an NFC system for the iPhone was used, such as Moneto.

User Profiles
While Apple has historically been reluctant to implement multiple user profiles in iOS, they offer it on the Mac and now, other services such as Netflix on Apple TV are also implementing user profiles. With the iPad becoming an almost ubiquitous family device, it is perhaps only a matter of time before user profiles could be added as a login feature to iOS, and fingerprint recognition could pave the way for easy, secure individual recognition and login.

iTunes Verification
Every Apple user has to have an iTunes ID in order to purchase anything from the App Store or iTunes, and password authentication is key. If a biometric profile were tied to an iTunes User ID, then we would move past the days of having to enter a password every time an Apple ID was used for a purchase, and it might even be the final push in moving the Apple ID from being an Apple-centric purchasing mechanism, to a full-fledged eWallet.

Parental Control
While iOS devices already have an advanced parental control system built it, biometric recognition would once again play into using user profiles in order to restrict device content for children. Kids would not necessarily have to register their fingerprints with a device, which feels weird somehow, but device functions could be restricted without parental biometric input.

Access To Third Party Services
This would again require a complicated bit of programming on Apple’s part, but fingerprint recognition could be used for access to third party services. For example, the Viper SmartStart system, which allows users to start, control or locate a car from any location using their iPhone could very effectively use biometric recognition to control their services. This could also be extended to millions of other uses which can and should only be accessible by the user.

Controlling Access To Files
While iOS has never been a file-based user interface in itself, there are hundreds of thousands of apps that include individual file browsing and access as part of their functionality. Pages, Dropbox and VLC are good examples. Fingerprint recognition could be used to control access to individual files, for example, if a user wanted a spreadsheet app to request fingerprint authentication every time a personal finance file was opened, this could be implemented with a single button, and again unlocked with a swipe of the thumb. Easy.

There are literally thousands of ways in which biometric recognition could improve iPhone functionality, but with recent rumors suggesting that the Home button of the long-rumored iPhone 5S is no different to that of the iPhone 5, it may still be another year before such a feature is implemented in any of Apple’s mobile devices.


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  • lucascott

    This all might happen at some point but I suspect right now it’s more of a palm rest etc type plan

  • Yacko

    To send a copy of your fingerprints directly to the FBI and Interpol?

    • http://www.applebitch.com/ AppleBitch

      Haha – nice!