Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly holding a media event on Sept. 10 to unveil the iPhone 5S, featuring a new fingerprint scanning technology, which, according to an analyst, could initially be limited to merely unlocking the phone.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a research note, obtained by MacRumors, that the iPhone 5S will indeed feature a fingerprint sensor in the home button, but the new capability will be limited to user authentication only, at least for now. According to him, the rumored secure payment functionality will be added to the phone at a later stage.
“We expect the iPhone 5S to include a fingerprint sensor with a basic unlocking feature, but do not believe the sensor will be built into iOS 7 enough to introduce a feature like secure payments as we believe that Authentec has only been a part of Apple for less than one year,” MacRumors quoted Munster as saying. “We believe that payments could be a key feature of the next version of iOS in 2014.”
The rumors about Apple working on adding a fingerprint sensor to its iOS devices started appearing ever since it acquired AuthenTec, a company that makes fingerprint sensor chips, in 2012, for $356 million.
The sensors, which are based on AuthenTec’s technology, can scan the live layer under the skin’s surface, while the fingerprint sensor chips can utilize near-field communication technology, which is expected to be featured on future iPhone versions, including in the iPhone 5S.
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It will be interesting to see whether Apple limits the fingerprint sensor only to unlock the device, or if the company will manage to include additional functionalities to make the feature stand out. It is worth noting here that the fingerprint sensor is highly expected to be a unique selling point for the iPhone 5S, just as Siri, the voice-controlled virtual assistant, proved to be for the iPhone 4S in 2011.
Munster also said that the low-cost iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 5C, will replace the iPhone 4S as the entry-level model in the iPhone lineup, but will not feature Siri. According to him, excluding Siri from the iPhone 5C, which is likely to be priced at $300 off-contract, will help differentiate it from high-end iPhone models.
“In terms of the phone itself, we expect the cheaper phone to have a plastic casing, 4" display, and lower end internal specs (processor, camera, memory, etc.) than the 5S/5 line up,” Munster said. “Additionally, we believe that Apple may exclude some software features, such as Siri, which we note was not an option on the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 upon launch.”
The analyst also predicted that Apple will launch the iPad 5 and the second generation iPad mini with retina display in October, while the long-rumored Apple TV set could be unveiled by the end of this year, “with a 70 percent chance of the product shipping within the first half of 2014.”