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The iPhone feature we really, really want might finally be coming

We're only a couple of months away from the next iPhone release (assuming the next model drops in the traditional September slot), and the rumour mill is, as the rumour mill does, churning away. The latest surprise comes courtesy of a new Apple patent which suggests one of the most requested features is finally on the way. But will it arrive this year?

The patent filing shows that Apple is working on an under-display fingerprint scanner, which could lets users unlock the phone using their finger (just like the good old days, eh?). As many users have discovered the hard way, Face ID isn't exactly pandemic-proof. What use is one of the best camera phones if you can't unlock it while wearing a face mask?

iPhone 13 render

A recent render of the upcoming iPhone 13 (Image credit: the Hacker 34 on YouTube)

As spotted by Patently Apple (opens in new tab), the filing reveals that Apple is working on "under-display cameras integrated into iPhones and MacBooks for biometric authentication." These could be used for "fingerprint imaging, iris imaging, facial recognition, and so on". In short, an under-display fingerprint scanner could be en route.

iPhone fingerprint scanner patent

A screenshot from the patent filing (Image credit: Patently Apple)

This can only be good news for iPhone users. Many have been crying out for Touch ID to return, and the tech has already made a comeback with the iPad Air 4 (opens in new tab). First launched with 2013's iPhone 5S, Touch ID was removed in favour of Face ID for 2017's iPhone X. But the company probably wasn't banking on us all wearing face coverings three years later, judging by the makeshift workarounds it's had to implement to make Face ID actually, you know, work.

iPhone Face ID

Face ID: not exactly pandemic-proof (Image credit: Apple/Future owns)

But while we've already heard plenty of exciting iPhone 13 rumours, it's unclear whether under-display fingerprint tech will arrive this year. It is, of course, never guaranteed that any patent will even see the light of day – but this particular one is backed up by previous rumours regarding under-display unlocking tech. Our fingers are firmly crossed that it will come this year, when masks are are still very much the norm, but we might have to wait for the iPhone 14 and beyond.

This year's new iPhone is already sounding pretty exciting, but it's worth remembering that the iPhone 12 is still an incredibly solid option. Check out today's best deals below, and be sure to visit our Apple Back to School deals page for more brilliant offers.

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Daniel Piper
Senior News Editor

Daniel Piper is Creative Bloq’s Senior News Editor. As the brand’s Apple authority, he covers all things Mac, iPhone, iPad and the rest. He also reports on the worlds of design, branding and tech. Daniel joined Future in 2020 (an eventful year, to say the least) after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more. Outside of Future, Daniel is a global poetry slam champion and has performed at festivals including Latitude, Bestival and more. He is the author of Arbitrary and Unnecessary: The Selected Works of Daniel Piper (Selected by Daniel Piper).