Apple's iPhone 5S brings a relatively new feature to smartphones (Yes, Motorola, we know you were the first) – in the form of a fingerprint sensor that can be used to unlock your iPhone, use it for authorization in iTunes purchases etc.
Now, with fingerprint sensors used as security, there's going to be a lot of debate about the overall security of the technology. Also, people who did not follow the event or the news that succeeded it are still in the dark about TouchID and all the things it can do.
Here's to folks who want to know what this TouchID fingerprint authentication is all about and why it's an important milestone for iPhone 5S and Apple as such.
It's Just Touch.
Unlike fingerprint sensors in laptops, iPhone 5S's TouchID does not require you to swipe or hold on the home button for long to authenticate. It works very simply where you just have to place your finger on the home button. According to first-hand reports (no pun intended), this works very fast and seamlessly.
Fingerprint Data Not Online
For all the security concerns that are raised, Apple seems to have an answer ready. The fingerprint data is not stored anywhere online. It resides on the iPhone's processor in an encrypted format which cannot be decrypted without the digital signature which also resides on the processor.
TouchID's Passcode Validation
Apple knows that TouchID is not the be-all and end-all of security so they tag it with a passcode. The first time you let the iPhone 5S scan your fingerprint, you have to enter a passcode to tag it with. Now, if your iPhone 5S is rebooted or not unlocked in 48 hours, you will have to touch the home button for the fingerprint scan and then enter the passcode to unlock and use the iPhone 5S. Additional security measure.
Can't Handle Moisture, Lotion etc.
Given its adherence to perfection, there are limitations to the sensors anyway. Apple says that sweaty fingers, dampness and lotion will not help. You need a clear/clean finger to authenticate.
It's Not Stored as Image
Clearing rumors and conspiracy theories here: the fingerprint is not stored as an image but rather as hard data. May be we can think of it as coded vector data but the details about that aren't available. The good thing about this is that the data can be easily and more securely encrypted.
The Scanner Is Not Available for Third-party Apps
We were having this discussion about the fingerprint scanner being available for third-party apps or being hacked into. Apple has however made it clear that the scanner is not presently available for access or use by third-party apps or services. This does not mean they will remain inaccessible forever. In the future, we'll get to see apps that get to use the fingerprint scanner.
The iPhone 5S will be available for pre-order on 13th, Sept and will release on 20th, Sept 2013 in eight countries. Check out details on availability and price here.