Touch ID Patent Application Shows Apple Could Expand Home Button Features

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A new patent application published by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) details some additional uses of the Touch ID sensor found on the iPhone and iPad that could make its way into future products. The patent is credited to AuthenTec co-founder Dale R. Setlak, meaning Apple is putting the company it acquired to build Touch ID to good use. It describes how a users’ finger on the Touch ID sensor might be used to control a rotating dial or navigate a pattern on-screen to provide alternate unlocking methods that combine fingerprint authentication with another level of security.

According to the patent application, a user would first place their finger on the device, prompting a fingerprint scan and recognition. They’d then be presented with a secondary screen, either r a rotating dial that lets them input a combination in the same way you would with a standard combination lock, or with a pattern screen that resembles those Google uses as a passcode option on its Android devices.

Apple’s patent details a few ways in which the Touch ID sensor could be used for things other than basic fingerprint authentication. Already, Apple uses it on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to detect light taps in order to trigger Reachability mode (wherein the top half of the screen is brought to the bottom to make it easier to tap with a single-hand). Theoretically it could be used in other ways, as well, including as the kind of optical trackpad BlackBerry has just resurrected with the antiquarian BlackBerry Classic.

Doubling up the iPhone’s security with fingerprint and an additional layer kind of defeats the purpose of Touch ID’s convenience benefits, but it could be handy in sensitive environments where added measures would provide more piece of mind. And this is a great example of how Apple is exploring what more they can do with this tech, now that it’s shipping in every new iPhone and iPad.