Today's release of iOS 7 beta 4 includes code which appears to validate rumors that the next iPhone hardware will contain a fingerprint sensor in the home button, presumably to add new security options to the device.
9to5Mac (via Hamza Sood) notes that the just-released iOS 7 beta 4 includes a new folder called "BiometricKitUI" (pictured above) which contains code aimed at users with the iOS VoiceOver feature enabled. The strings inside the folder indicate that a new biometric sensor will be embedded in the iPhone's home button:
According to 9to5Mac the user-interface for the fingerprint scanning system is complete and the technology will be used for unlocking the phone, but it is unclear if biometrics will be leveraged for an Apple payment system based on the user's iTunes account or if it will be integrated into its affinity card app, Passbook.
It's not hard to imagine all of the uses for a fingerprint sensor in an iPhone or iPad and developers would be especially interested in the technology if an API were made available that would allow them to access the fingerprint sensor from their apps. 1password and all of the major banking and financial apps would be eager to implement the technology and large corporations could also use the new security/verification hardware to secure the increasing amount of sensitive material and intellectual property that is contained on corporately-owned iPhones and iPads.
A biometric fingerprint sensor would definitely give the iPhone a leg up on the competition, at least initially. Samsung filed a patent application in January 2012 and was granted patent number 20130129163 in May 2013 for the integration of a fingerprint sensor that could arrive in the Home buttons of upcoming Galaxy devices and possibly initiate another patent war (or licensing deal) between the companies. (Update: the Motorola ATRIX 4G included a fingerprint sensor. Read the CNET review here.)
Apple acquired fingerprint sensor firm AuthenTec for $356 million in July 2012 and rumors have been swirling since then about how the company could leverage biometric technology.
How would you like to see a fingerprint scanner implemented in an iPhone or iPad?