A new Apple job posting suggests that Cupertino is beginning to work with fingerprint scanner technology, heavily rumored for the iPhone 5S. But if Apple is
hiring techs for this technology now, it’s more likely that biometric technology will arrive on next year’s iPhone 6 instead.
The reading of the Apple tea leaves is part intrigue, part insanity. Every year, we engage in the pastime of scrutinizing Apple marketing collateral, job postings, and quirks on the apple.com website as indicators of future Apple events. It’s not entirely our fault; the Steve Jobs era of Apple did plenty to instill this fervor. But it’s now a much more sober company under the direction of Tim Cook — yet we as a rumor mill still continue analyze patents, job postings, and innuendo, and imagine that they prognosticate the short-term future of Apple products like the iPhone.
This past week, we had another one of those Apple job postings that has the rumor mill alight, with the media pointing to it as proof positive that the iPhone 5S will have a fingerprint scanner. But given what we know already about the iPhone 5S — and the way Apple does things — does the job posting actually make more sense in suggesting fingerprint scanner tech for the iPhone 6 in 2014 instead?
According to GottaBeMobile:
Apple had recently posted about a job position for a software engineer at the Melbourne Design Center in Florida. The engineer would write ‘low level code to configure and control hardware,’ and would have to test sensors with LabTool and FA software, according to the posting. Further corroborating news of increased security on the iPhone with Authentec technology, the job posting’s Melbourne location is the same place as the headquarters of Authentec.
Awkward grammar aside, the GottaBeMobile quote points to what amounts to a hiring at what used to be Authentec — the biometric scanning tech company that Apple recently acquired, ostensibly in a bid to subsume their advancements into Cupertino’s arsenal of newfangled gadgets for the iPhone and other mobile devices. GottaBeMobile at least hedged their bets by stating, “If the Authentec-developed security technology doesn’t appear on the iPhone 5S and may not make it to market at least until the iPhone 6 debut, then what we’ve recently heard may bear more credence.”
But that hasn’t stopped the rest of the rumor mill from running with this story, citing this job posting as proof positive that the iPhone 5S is getting a fingerprint scanner.
There are, however, few reasons to believe that the iPhone 5S will feature a fingerprint scanner — unless it is a technology that can be implemented completely on the software side, via iOS 7. We’ve stated consistently on the iPhone 5 News Blog that 2013 will feature a refreshed “S” model of the iPhone 5, and that, like the other S models before it, it will be light on new hardware features, all in a bid to “double dip” on the massive investment Apple made into developing the iPhone 5. Consistently, this has been their production model. Thus, to add a new piece of hardware — a fingerprint sensor, which is essentially a brand-new idea for smartphones that is not currently being heavily used in the mainstream — really makes no sense.
Additionally, because the chances of iWallet being implemented this year are slim (we’ve even heard Apple execs express ambivalence over the technology), what would the purpose of the fingerprint scanner be? The prevailing thought has always been that fingerprint scanning technology would be used as a key security feature for when (or if) NFC/iWallet capabilities came to the iPhone. Absent of iWallet, a fingerprint scanner would be nothing more than an expensive novelty.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, just because Apple bought Authentec doesn’t mean that they will use their technologies this year — or ever. Time and time again we’ve seen Apple acquisitions, licenses, and patents that never come to fruition. Clearly, the company makes these moves to keep excitement high, and in some cases, they develop the tech onto their products. But there are plenty of dreamy, conceptual iPhone features that are still nothing more than sci-fi. Case in point: Liquidmetal. How many years have we been waiting for Liquidmetal to be deployed on an iPhone’s form factor.
Reading the tea leaves from job postings, patents, and other peripheral clues is indeed fun. But it’s nothing more than a distraction. Let’s keep watching for production hints, the release of beta versions of iOS, etc. It’s the best way to handicap what’s really going on with the iPhone.