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Apple’s iPhone 13 won’t have the upgrade everyone secretly wants

Published Jul 15th, 2021 11:50AM EDT
iPhone 13 Fingerprint Sensor
Image: SvetApple

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The iPhone 13 series should be released on time this year. At least that’s what a variety of reports from Apple’s iPhone supply chain seem to indicate. Apple has been placing orders for key iPhone components well in advance. The company wants to avoid shortages and prevent any other iPhone delays. A report from Bloomberg said earlier this week that Apple intends to manufacture some 90 million iPhone 13 units this year, a significant increase over previous years. The report also detailed the expected iPhone 13 specs and features, claiming that the phone will not have the feature everyone has quietly been waiting for.

Apple removed the Touch ID sensor from the iPhone in 2017 when the iPhone X arrived. The phone featured a 3D face recognition system at the top, in the well-known notch. Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, Apple explained at the time. The company said face unlock was the future for its iPhone lineup.

Apple then proceeded to eliminate the notch from iPad Pros, giving them the same Face ID components. Last year, the iPad Air lost the home button, but the fingerprint sensor stayed behind. Apple introduced its first-ever side button Touch ID sensor, but it’s not expected to arrive on an iPhone anytime soon.

iPhone 13 fingerprint sensor rumors

All the while, Android handset makers invested in under-display fingerprint reader technology. Matching Face ID proved to be too costly for them, so we saw a few alternatives emerge in recent years. Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors soon replaced optical sensors. Then, the in-display sensor grew in size. Just as all iPhones looked identical with their notches at the top, Android phones offered buyers the same exact design across every brand. The under-display fingerprint sensor meant all Android phones could use hole-punch screens.

Apple has been testing different ways to place a fingerprint sensor under the screen of mobile devices. We saw technology for optical and ultrasonic sensors detailed in patents that preceded the iPhone X launch. But Apple never pulled the trigger.

Reports earlier this year said that the iPhone 13 might feature an in-display fingerprint sensor. Touch ID is a feature many iPhone fans crave, especially after a year of the pandemic. Face masks prevent Face ID from working, although Apple has found a workaround for users who own Apple Watches.

Even well-known insiders like Ming-Chi Kuo said back in 2019 that Apple planned to launch an iPhone with in-display Touch ID this year. He has been quiet on the matter since that first note to investors, however.

Apple reportedly tested Touch ID on new iPhones

The Bloomberg report offers the same iPhone 13 details we’ve seen a hundred times. The four new phones will have smaller notches, as Apple wants to remove them entirely in the future. Otherwise, the iPhone 13 versions will look a lot like their iPhone 12 predecessors. But the report also dropped this unexpected gem about the iPhone 13:

The company has tested an in-display fingerprint scanner for this year’s devices, however that feature will likely not appear on this generation.

While this is just an unconfirmed rumor, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has a great track record reporting on unreleased iPhones. Fingerprint sensor rumors aside, the iPhone 13 will still support Face ID.

We’ll have to wait until September to see whether the iPhone 13 series will feature a fingerprint sensor under the screen. That’s assuming the new handsets do launch on time. Recent rumblings have suggested next year’s iPhone 14 will be the first model to introduce Apple’s next-generation Touch ID.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.