Can Apple's iPhone 5S make fingerprint scanners cool?

Apple will unveil its iPhone 5S on Sept. 10 with a new fingerprint sensor feature, say analysts.

Alfredo Sosa/ The Christian Science Monitor/ File
Customers descend the glass staircase at the Apple store in Boston. Apple will unveil the new iPhone 5S on Sept. 10.

A mobile device that recognizes its owner’s fingerprints is no longer something out of an old sci-fi film. In fact, identifying individuals by unique characteristics like fingerprints might be the next big tech trend.

Apple’s new iPhone 5S model, which is set for a Sept. 10  release date, is rumored to include special fingerprint sensor software, according to MacRumors.com. This would let users unlock their devices simply by brushing a finger across the phone’s screen. Despite earlier rumblings in the Mac world that the new iPhone models would also include features for making secure payments via smart phone fingerprint recognition, Apple is likely to hold off on this until 2014, giving the company time to vet the fingerprint feature first, says Gene Munster, a technology analyst with Piper Jaffray.  

The company's purchase of the $350 million fingerprint-sensor company AuthenTec last year has not only fueled speculation about fingerprint sensors in iPhones, but also about the future of biometric technologies. 

"Apple is giving a strong indication that market leaders see biometrics as part of their road map," says Thomas Marschall, chief executive officer of Precise Biometrics AB, in an interview with Bloomberg. "All competitors are looking for alternatives to match Apple – it's the kickoff of a rally in the industry." Bloomberg reports that shares of Precise Biometrics have almost doubled since Apple's AuthenTec deal earlier this year, as buyers anticipate a real boom in the demand for biometric security. 

On Sept. 10, Apple is also expected to unveil a version of the iPhone for emerging markets, the 5C, alongside the 5S. The less expensive 5C won't include features such as Siri and will likely retail around $300 for an off-contract plan, according to MacRumor.

In the past, Apple's fine-tuning of preexisting technologies – think MP3 players, full-touch screen phones, and tablet devices – has shifted industry demands, sending other companies scrambling to keep up with what seems to make consumers happy. As mentioned in last week's Monitor article on tablets, even if Apple faces stiff competition in the industry, the company has an uncanny ability to make existing technology seem futuristic and appealing.

And, should all conditionals in this article prove true, we could all very well be lusting after the new fingerprint sensor technology once reserved for fiction. 

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