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iPhone 7 release date rumours & new features

David Price | June 23, 2016
Apple to ditch usual upgrade cycle, save features for iPhone 8 | iPhone 7 headphone jack 'safe for now' according to reports.

iPhone 7 design rumours: Touch ID built into the screen

In the continuing march of miniaturisation, one of the elements of the iPhone design that's proved resistant to shrinkage is the bezel below the screen - it can't get much smaller than it already is because it needs to house the Home button. Which is why a recurring theory is that Apple will extend the screen down past the Home button, or even incorporate the Touch ID sensor that lives in the recent iPhones' Home button into the touchscreen.

Technology that would facilitate such a development was recently announced by a biometric R&D company called Sonavation.

"Sonavation," the firm declares, "has reached an industry milestone by successfully developing and bonding an ultrasound biometric sensor which is compatible with Corning Gorilla Glass, providing a high-resolution 3D fingerprint image."

This would enable Apple (which is known to use Gorilla Glass in its iPhones, even if the supplier is apparently not permitted to say this publicly) to run the screen vertically edge-to-edge, with no cut-out for the Home button. The Home button could occupy the same position but appear only when needed, much like the software keyboard; and the technology for Touch ID would be bonded to the underside of the screen at the appropriate point.

Last year Apple filed a patent that appeared to back up the theory that it's looking into ideas like this. Patent application number 20150036065, for "a  fingerprint sensor... incorporated in a display stack in an electronic device", was filed by a number of Apple's engineers in April 2014 and published recently. Here are some of the accompanying illustrations (although you should bear in mind that patent images are almost universally ugly, and shouldn't bear much resemblance to what the finished design would look like):

iPhone 7 new features rumours: Touch ID built into screen

iPhone 7 new features rumours: Touch ID built into screen

We're still not completely sure what this design would achieve, since (as you can see in the iPhone illustration in Fig. 1) it doesn't even do away with the Home button, and therefore doesn't increase the amount of screen area.

And we've not been blown away by the reliability of the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s, which seems to be hyper-sensitive to any quantity of grease sitting on the Home button. (Granted, the 6s and 6s Plus sensors seem more reliable, as well as faster.) Given how smudged an iPhone screen can get, this seems like it could be even worse, even before you factor in potential complications of embedded the sensor within the screen elements.


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