We’ve all been hearing rumors of Apple’s new fingerprint sensor coming out on the iPhone 5S soon. What has surprised me the most is how not a single article I’ve read - talks about how Apple is going to leverage the hardware with it’s software - a classic Apple move.
Sure, we all expect the fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone. Duh. This is what most articles seem to consider. Swipe to unlock - no more passcode to get into the phone for security! That is only the beginning.
Let’s go back to June this year when apple announced iOS7…the feature that stuck out for me was this one:
Fingerprints + iCloud Keychain + Password generator = better security throughout the user experience
This combo will help users finally stop using the same password across many sites (by generating them - and also remembering them, and also make sure only YOU can use them)
I believe Apple’s big play and will probably make a big deal of it at the iphone announcement is that they’ve made security easier and more consistent throughout the iOS user experience.
Think about how many times you need to enter usernames and passwords on your phone. (ProTip: Add a dictionary word to your iphone to make a shortcut for your personal email - ie: when I type “argm” on my iphone - it spellcorrects it to my full email address - saves typing 15 characters each time I login somewhere). It’s painful and insecure because each password character is shown to someone peeking over your shoulder as you type.
There are “apps for that” like 1password (recommended!) - which store all your passwords in one place securely and make it easy to use in Chrome on my desktop. But on my iphone? The 1password app has had to integrate it’s own custom browser to provide a simple way to login to all my sites from my iphone. Since I prefer to use Chrome - I generally need to access 1password, type in my long password, copy the site’s password to the clipboard, then paste it into the password box in Safari/Chrome or the iOS app itself. Not so slick.
When you try to unlock your new iPhone 5S, sure you may need place your finger on the home button (or if they succeeded - it may even be part of the screen itself - swipe as normal!)….but after you’ve unlocked your phone - there are many more interactions that can benefit from the Fingerprint Scan PLUS the new iOS keychain feature.
Safari is going to leverage the fingerprint scanner to authenticate the person using the phone at that moment:
- From the browser, log you into any site you’ve saved a password for by swiping your finger
- Before you can use the iphone’s built-in Twitter/Facebook authentication
- Auto-filling your credit card information into a check-out process on a website
- When using an app that wants to make sure the current user is actually the owner (ie: banking applications)
Hopefully Apple makes this open enough that other apps can leverage the functionality - for example having the keychain available to Google Chrome.
Apple is doing what it normally does - making something that has a solution - but is inelegant and disrupting it. I think in a year or two - we’ll all be used to holding our finger down on the home button to authorize a variety of things, not just unlocking your phone’s homescreen.
If I have a reliable way of generating one-time passwords and keeping them stored - this may be the first step to not having any passwords that i actually know in my brain. They are all in my Apple Keychain (which is scary too).