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Apple announces 'Touch ID' fingerprint scanner for iPhone 5S

As widely rumored prior to its announcement, the iPhone 5s will sport biometric fingerprint security with a new feature Apple is calling "Touch ID," a seamless mode of authentication built directly into the phone's home button.

The system is comprised of a flat sapphire crystal, stainless steel detection ring and fingerprint sensing array, all built into the tactile iPhone 5s home button.

Apple is looking to position the new technology as a smarter way to secure a user's iPhone, noting many device owners use simply passcodes or none at all.

The home button packs in a 500ppi sensor capable of scanning sub-dermal layers of skin from a variety of angles, resulting in a more detailed, three-dimensional map of a fingerprint. The technology is, according to Apple, able to recognize multiple fingerprints, indicating that it may be used to give specific permissions to specific users.

Touch ID

"All fingerprint [data] is encrypted," said Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, "and secured inside a secure enclave. It's never available to other to other software. It's never uploaded to Apple's servers or backed up to iCloud."

Whereas the features of the iPhone 5C continually leaked up to Tuesday's announcement, the iPhone 5S remained something of a mystery. Only late into the run-up to its unveiling did the more concrete elements of the expected fingerprint sensor begin to emerge.

Just days before Tuesday's reveal, analysts were predicting that the addition of a fingerprint sensor would likely boost mobile commerce and give Apple a leg up in security.

Touch ID can be used for passcodes to unlock the device as well as for iTunes account access, perhaps a first step into mobile payment authentication. Multiple fingerprints can be recognized by the system, which will allow for multi-user access.

Touch ID

The fingerprint sensor module is thought to be the product of Apple's $356 million acquisition of AuthenTec in 2012.