I get the feeling that the gray rings are significant.
— Craig Hockenberry (@chockenberry) September 3, 2013
So what does this mean? Most people assume that it’s just going to be easier to access your home screen (without entering a passcode.) But I think it goes much deeper than that.
iCloud services are a huge part of Apple’s next decade. Everything the company is doing these days has some kind of connection to data that is stored remotely. They’re investing heavily in new data centers.
And anytime you want to access this data, you’re logging into iCloud. Wouldn’t it be great if you could skip the part where you have to type in your Apple ID?
It’s clear to me that your unique fingerprint will be tied to your unique Apple ID. Once this connection between your physical and online presences is established, some very interesting things become possible. Let’s take a look at a few things I think might happen:
Protecting access to apps
From the beginning, I’ve wanted a way to protect my personal information when sharing a device with friends and family. But any secure solution to that problem would be a pain in the butt. Typing a password before launching an app? No thanks!
But imagine if opening your favorite Twitter app only required a fingerprint scan before proceeding. Everyone’s favorite Twitter prank would thankfully die. And more importantly, we’d all feel a lot better about using things like online banking apps.
Most corporate networks are protected by VPN. The profiles that enable this network configuration often specify that a user must use a passcode lock. And it’s rarely a simple passcode. And it kicks in immediately.
Imagine needing to type in a eight character password with letters and numerals just to check the current weather. That’s a reality for millions of people who use their device for both personal and business tasks.
A fingerprint scanner that avoids this complex password will sell a lot of devices.
There are many scenarios where you want to let someone do whatever they want with your personal device: a partner providing directions while you drive, a kid playing games in a waiting room, your parents looking at vacation photos. All these people have something different than you: a fingerprint.
Entering a login and password has always seemed out of place in the simplified world of iOS. But detecting which account to use when tapping on the home button actually makes it easier for members of your family to use your personal device: they don’t even have to slide to unlock.
And once everyone has their own personal space on the device, no one can mess with it. This is important in many contexts: even something simple like a game has sensitive information as soon as a sibling comes along and screws up high scores or play position.
Most of us backup our data to iCloud. That data is restored to a device when it’s first put into service or if something goes wrong.
Now imagine if you had the ability to restore your data onto any device with the touch of your finger. Borrow an iPad and make it yours instantly. Businesses that strive to make a customer feel at home, like hotels and airlines, would love this capability.
If you think Apple is going to give developers access to this biometric information, think again. Google would love this data, so you know it’s not going to happen.
Slowly but surely
Don’t expect all these things to appear on September 10th. Apple will start out simply and continue to improve the software that uses this new sensor. That’s how they roll.
Acknowledgments: The genesis of these ideas came from a conversation with my colleague Sean Heber. He’s the one that first made the connection between iCloud and your finger. Thanks also go to Ryan Jones for the links about the sensor.