Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Touch ID fingerprint scanner technology may soon be implemented in two other popular product lines. According to industry sources cited by the China Times via GforGames, Apple supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (NYSE:TSM) has recently expanded a facility where the Touch ID sensors will be assembled using an 8-inch fab processing method that was previously used for the iPhone 5S.
The sources noted that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s Touch ID production is expected to reach 120 million units in 2014, a 233 percent increase over its production last year. While some of these Touch ID units are being produced for the iPhone 6, the additional units are also believed to be intended for the upcoming iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. According to the supply chain sources cited by the China Times, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will begin shipping the first batches of the fingerprint sensor assembly for all three devices in early July.
The supply chain sources’ claim that the Touch ID technology will be introduced into the next generation of iPads aligns with predictions previously made by well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors earlier this year, Kuo predicted that both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 would be upgraded with Touch ID sensors and A8 processors, reports MacRumors.
Besides expanding its biometric authentication system to other product lines, the China Times’ sources noted that Apple is also implementing design changes that will improve the durability of the Touch ID modules. Apple already protects the outside of the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S with a sapphire covering. Although it’s not clear if Apple has encountered any durability problems with the current Touch ID modules, some users have experienced a software-based “fingerprint fade” issue in which the fingerprint sensor’s ability to recognize a registered fingerprint became progressively worse after several weeks of use. Apple later released a software update to correct the problem.
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor has proven to be a popular option for iPhone 5S owners. As noted by Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month, less than half (49 percent) of iPhone owners used a passcode before Touch ID was introduced. However, now 83 percent of iPhone 5S owners use a Touch ID/Passcode to secure their devices.
While iPhone 5S users can already use the Touch ID system to authenticate purchases made in the App Store, Apple recently announced that the Touch ID will be opened to third-party app developers with a new Touch ID application programming interface (API) in iOS 8. This change may prove especially important for mobile payments service providers such as eBay’s (NASDAQ:EBAY) PayPal, since it will eliminate the inconvenience of entering alphanumeric passwords to authenticate mobile purchases. But despite the change, Apple will continue to protect users’ fingerprint data from outside parties by keeping that information stored in a separate secure enclave in the device’s processor.
Apple’s iPhone 6 is rumored to coming in two larger screen sizes of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, and both models are expected to feature the revamped Touch ID hardware. Most industry watchers believe that both of the next-generation iPhones will arrive in September, although some sources believe that the 4.7-inch model will launch before the 5.5-inch model. Although it is unclear when the next iPad models will be released, Apple launched the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display in November and may follow a similar release schedule this year.
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