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New tech bonds fingerprint sensors under Gorilla Glass, could allow button-free iPhones

Security technology firm Sonavation on Tuesday announced a technology allowing ultrasonic fingerprint sensors to be embedded under Corning Gorilla Glass, potentially paving the way for anticipated iPhone designs without home buttons.

Such sensors are bonded directly to the display. Sonavation claimed that its 3D scanning technology can remain accurate in all situations, even if a finger is moist, oily, or dirty.

In June, AppleInsider learned that Apple is working on eliminating the home button from future iPhones, although the first models with that technology are unlikely to ship until 2017 at the very earliest. The key obstacle will be replacing the Touch ID sensor embedded in the button with equivalent fingerprint detection embedded in the screen.

Indeed Apple has filed for multiple patents related to the concept, including one covering the detection of multiple fingerprints simultaneously. The company is also working on chips that merge separate touch and display driver functions, but it could want to turn to a company like Sonavation to create a complete package.

There are other potential barriers as well however, such as whether the technology will work with sapphire if Apple chooses to switch away from Gorilla Glass. There's also the question of how to replace iOS commands that currently rely on a home button, though Force Touch and multi-finger gestures could provide a relatively simple solution.