Monday, March 11, 2013, 10:41 am PT (01:41 pm ET)
New rumor points to fingerprint sensor, NFC e-wallet in Apple's next iPhoneA new report out of China claims that Apple has contracted with Taiwan's Chipbond Science and Technology to build fingerprint sensors into its next-generation iPhone.
The details were reported on Monday by China Times, which claimed that the so-called "iPhone 5S" will include both a fingerprint sensor and a near-field communications chip for mobile payments. The two items are expected to work in concert with one another, allowing users to easily authorize a transaction with their fingerprint.
Apple reportedly began stocking components for the iPhone 5S during the second quarter. The device is expected to launch in mid-to-late 2013.
The details reported on Monday align with what was previously claimed by analyst Ming-chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who has a reliable track record in predicting Apple's future product pipeline. Kuo believes the new iPhone 5S will launch sometime in June or July with the same aesthetic as the iPhone 5, but with the addition of a built-in fingerprint sensor, along with an improved camera and more powerful A7 system on a chip.
According to Kuo, the fingerprint sensor will reside under the home button on the device. Users will simply place their thumb over the button when prompted, and the identity of the user can be verified for various tasks such as entering passwords or authorizing purchases.
The first signs of a potential fingerprint scanner in future devices appeared last year when it was revealed that Apple had bought security firm AuthenTec. The $356 million acquisition was reportedly focused on the company's "Smart Sensor" component, which measures just 1.30 millimeters thick but can scan 500 pixels per inch.
As for the possibility of an NFC e-wallet in the next iPhone, Apple set the stage for such a move last year with the debut of Passbook in iOS 6. But in launching Passbook, Apple decided to eschew NFC payments, due in part to the need for mobile payment terminals at stores for such a system to work.
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