Today, Apple announced two new models of the iPhone, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. One of the biggest news items at the Apple event is that the new iPhone 5S will sport a whole new home button with a fingerprint sensor with a sapphire lens, ringed in stainless steel.
Sapphire, the second hardest material on Earth after the diamond, is scratch resistant, so it should be very well suited for use as a lens. While this is great news for the sapphire community, this is not the only use for sapphire in a smart phone. Many smart phone OEMs already use sapphire for the camera lens cover because of its scratch resistance, but also is used for the LEDs in the backlighting for the screens as well as the silicon-on-sapphire (SOS)-based RFIC chips that power the RF antennas. There are more places for use of sapphire in a smart phone as well since OEMS are looking to use SOS chips for digitally tunable capacitors (DTCs) and power amplifiers. And, don’t forget sapphire’s largest overall market, LEDs, for lighting, displays and more.
Apple claims that Touch ID reads a fingerprint at an entirely new level by scanning sub-epidermal skin layers with 360 degree reading capabilities. The sensor is part of the home button which is 170 microns thick with a 500 ppi resolution. Touch ID stores the encrypted fingerprint info securely in a “secure enclave” inside the new A7 chip, the new processor for the iPhone 5S. The neat thing is that it should be able to store multiple fingers. The Touch ID will enable you to purchase items on iTunes, the AppStore or iBooks without a password.
You can see where the sapphire is in this photo of the home button from CNet’s live blog of the Apple event:
The iPhone 5S (and the 5C) go on pre-sale on September 13th and will be on sale in stores on September 20th.
For Further Reading
Engadget, iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor called Touch ID, recognizes your thumb on the Home button: here’s how it works and what it does, http://www.engadget.com/2013/09/10/iphone-5s-fingerprint-sensor/