With Apple widely expected to embed a fingerprint reader into the display of the iPhone 8, the company has patented a number of different technologies it could use to accomplish this.

One approach would limit fingerprint recognition to the bottom section of the display, meaning that authenticating a fingerprint would have to be a deliberate step, as it is with today’s Touch ID sensor. But a patented granted today would allow a fingerprint to be recognized anywhere on the screen, with Apple specifically arguing that authentication could then be completely automatic …

We quoted earlier the relevant part of the patent description.

Where a fingerprint sensor is integrated into an electronic device or host device, for example, as noted above, it may be desirable to more quickly perform authentication, particularly while performing another task or an application on the electronic device. In other words, in some instances it may be undesirable to have a user perform an authentication in a separate authentication step, for example switching between tasks to perform the authentication.

This would represent quite a change in approach.

For example, if you select a paid app from the App Store, you are currently asked to use Touch ID to specifically authorize the purchase. What Apple suggests above is that, as your finger was already on the touchscreen to hit the Buy button, it could automatically read your fingerprint to authenticate the purchase without explicitly asking you to do so.

Similarly, if you are offered Apple Pay as a means of buying a product from within a retailer app, you currently have to specifically confirm that purchase by putting your finger or thumb on the Touch ID sensor. With the approach described in the patent, the app might skip that step and take payment as soon as you hit the Buy button.

On the plus side, it would be a more seamless experience for users. On the downside, you would lose the chance to double-check that you’re really ok with the purchase.

Personally, though, I’d love to see this happen. I already make frequent use of the One-Click Purchase button on Amazon. Sure, that skips the stage of Amazon summarizing my purchase details and asking me to confirm, but to me that’s a positive thing. I hate shopping, whether online or offline, and see it as a chore to be done as quickly and painlessly as possible. The one-click button achieves this, and Apple’s proposal to read my fingerprint from the screen as soon as I buy something would do the same.

Perhaps the App Store and retailer apps could do the same as Amazon: offer two buttons, a One-tap Buy and a Checkout, and users could tap the one they want. Hit the One-tap Buy button, and Apple reads your fingerprint from the screen; tap the Checkout button, and you are prompted to touch your finger to a specific part of the screen.

What do you think? Would you want fully-automatic authentication, a dual-button system like Amazon or do you want to stick to the present method? Please take our poll and let us know your views in the comments.

Concept image: Benjamin Geskin

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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