updated 02:53 pm EDT, Tue September 10, 2013
Feature only available on new iPhone 5S
Following a flurry of recent rumors, Apple today confirmed that its new iPhone 5S features biometric security. Known as Touch ID, the system relies on a new home button with an integrated capacitive sensor and a stainless-steel detection ring. Users simply touch the button to unlock the phone, rather than keying in a passcode.
The system is said to scan sub-epidermal skin layers to verify the user's identity, with 500ppi resolution and 360-degree readability for consistent scans regardless of finger orientation. Sapphire glass protects the sensor from scratches, in the same way the camera lens has been protected on the iPhone 5.
"Your fingerprint is one of the best passwords in the world," Apple hardware engineering VP Dan Riccio says in a promotional video. "It's always with you and no two are exactly alike."
Aside from unlocking the screen, the fingerprint scanner can also be used to quickly verify iTunes purchases without manually typing in an account password. The system also supports multiple fingerprints from different users.
The fingerprint data is encrypted and stored inside a "secure enclave" within the A7 chip, accessible only by the touch sensor. The identification data is not stored on Apple servers or included in iCloud backups.
The new Touch ID sensor is only available on the iPhone 5S, which goes on sale September 20.