What it is: Apple recently patented an idea to use the iPhone’s camera and fingerprint sensor to capture a thief’s identity.
One of the biggest problems with many companies is that they occur exclusively on adding more features without necessarily explaining why you might want those features in the first place. Even worse, many features simply exist for no other reason than to offer something new. At one time, Samsung smartphones offered the ability to share data by simply bumping two phones together. Unfortunately those two phones had to be nearly identical Samsung phones, which meant this feature was rarely used by anyone.
Hardware features alone are useless unless they serve a practical purpose. Even better, hardware features alone won’t sell anything unless they have at least one compelling reason to exist. Add two or three reasons and now that hardware future becomes indispensable.
Apple has been improving the iPhone’s camera with each generation. In the latest versions of the iPhone, Apple even added a fingerprint sensor. The initial purpose of the fingerprint sensor seemed to be just to unlock your iPhone securely. After all, someone could guess or steal your access code, but they can’t steal your fingerprint. That’s why Samsung and other rivals quickly copied the fingerprint sensor in their phones too.
Then Apple announced that the fingerprint sensor can biometrical identify you when purchasing items through Apple Pay. Now the fingerprint sensor serves dual purposes. One, it can unlock an iPhone and two, it can securely let you buy something with Apple Pay.
Rivals quickly jumped on this feature too by adding Samsung Pay and Android Pay with fingerprint sensors. Now Apple has patented an invention for also using the fingerprint sensor to capture the fingerprints of thieves.
When someone steals an iPhone, they usually try to access it. Apple’s patent lets the iPhone capture both a picture of the thief and the fingerprint of that thief. Apple’s patent also uses machine learning to decide where you normally used your iPhone (using GPS) and determines if your iPhone is in a strange and completely different location than you’ve ever been to before, which likely signals it’s been stolen and taken out of your hands.
By capturing thieves’ fingerprints and pictures, Apple’s patent can discourage thieves from trying to steal and profit from somebody else’s iPhone in the first place. This silly gives a third purpose for the fingerprint sensor, which is to capture a thief’s identity.
While most people probably won’t buy an iPhone just to get this anti-theft technology, it’s just another bonus to convince people to buy an iPhone instead of a rival smartphone that will be easier for thieves to steal. Expect this anti-theft feature to appear in an upcoming iPhone model, perhaps even as early as the end of this year.
Apple isn’t just adding hardware features to the iPhone for the sake of adding new features, but to support their future vision. When first announced, most people thought the fingerprint sensor was a gimmick until they learned it could not only unlock an iPhone but also verify your identity when using Apple Pay. Now you can also use the fingerprint sensor to identify thieves.
So when the next iPhone arrives, expect it to offer some hardware feature that will likely see dual or triple use later in the future. Apple is sowing the seeds for future applications with each new hardware feature introduced. The camera can be used to take pictures, capture the identity of thieves, and offer augmented reality, but that’s another story that Apple will tell in an upcoming iPhone model.