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Apple Rethinks the Home Button for Touch ID in a Creative Way

10.4 - Patent Application

1 cover 55 touch id apple logo

In February we posted a patent report title "Apple Introduces an Alternative Touch ID Method using Full-Display Fingerprint Sensors." That patent clearly showed us that Apple was researching an alternative method of implementing Touch ID through the front displays of iDevices rather than the traditional Home Button. Today, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals yet another method of integrating Touch ID into an iDevice like the iPhone. Apple illustrates that they could easily hide the Touch ID's biometric circuitry within the Apple Logo on the backside of the iPhone so as to free up space on the front side display. Secondary features of this new invention could allow various parts of Apple's identification insignia, such as the logo and wording, to be used to hide tiny health related sensors like a heart rate monitor and/or allow circuitry to be open on the backside so as to support the design of an all new docking station concept.


Apple's Patent Background


Many electronic devices may include electrical connectors to electrically couple the electronic device to an external circuit. For example, some electronic devices may include electrical contacts which may be positioned to align with corresponding contacts of a charging station or dock.


Other electronic devices may include electrical connectors as a portion of a sensor. For example, adjacent electrical connectors may complete an electrical circuit when a device may be immersed in a conductive liquid. In another example, a sensor may include certain electrical contacts as biometric sensors to measure fingerprints, heart rate, or skin conductance.


Generally, multiple connectors may be required to include multiple sensors in an electronic device. In some examples, each connector of each sensor may require an aperture within the housing of the electronic device to expose the connector. Such apertures may weaken the structural integrity of the housing, increase production complexity and cost, and may be inefficient with respect to component layout within the electronic device. These limitations may be especially problematic for small form factor electronic devices.


Accordingly, there may be a present need for an electrical connector that does not require additional apertures in the housing of an electronic device.


Apple Invents a New Touch ID Methodology & More


Apple's patent relates to or takes the form of an electronic device with a rigid housing that may include a first aperture which defines a first portion of a symbol like the Apple logo. In other embodiments the symbol may include at least a portion of a glyph or may include a symbol that may be a portion of a word. The first and second insert may be a letter, a portion of a letter, a counter of a letter (e.g., a region enclosed within the boundaries of a letter), or more than one letter within the word. The logo is cut into the iPhone and an insert fills that cut in the iPhone with a colored logo element.


The inserts for the logo and wording may be made from the same or different electrically conductive materials. In some embodiments, the inserts may be electrically insulated from the rigid housing. In other embodiments, the inserts may be electrically insulating and the housing may be electrically conductive.


In some embodiments, the first insert and second inserts may at least partially define an electrical path which may constitute a skin conductivity sensor, a heart rate monitor, or any other suitable biometric sensor.


In February we posted a patent application report title "Apple Introduces an Alternative Touch ID Method using Full-Display Fingerprint Sensors." That patent clearly showed that Apple was working on an alternative way to implement Touch ID through the display panel rather than the traditional Home Button.


Today's patent application continues that line of thinking by creatively using the backside of an iPhone and more particularly the Apple Logo insert as doubling as a Touch ID sensor – and beyond. Last week we reported that "Apple was working on a Full iPhone Display that would Drop their Classic Home Button," and so this patent confirms once again that Apple is exploring various methods to reinvent the ID scanner positioning. Though admittedly, at first glance, this current idea would seem to less inconvenient. However, if the logo is also recessed so that the user's finger could easily feel the logo, then perhaps this could work nicely. But that isn't currently noted in Apple's filing.



Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above depicts a back view of the sample iPhone #100. Along the back the iPhone may be one or more externally visible features that may such as the Apple logo and other visual identifications. Apple's patent FIG. 3 depicts a detailed view of a portion of the iPhone's backside showing a the Apple logo having multiple distinct parts. In the illustrated embodiment, the product logo may include a small insert portion #120 and an insert portion #130, each placed within a different cavity representing a different portion of the logo. Each insert portion may be composed of a material different than that of the housing that is constructed of an electrically conductive material.


Apple notes that in some embodiments, the electrical circuit may be a sensor, such a biometric sensor or fingerprint sensor. In such a case, when a user grasps the electronic device, the user's skin may come into contact with the insert portions to complete an electrical path. In this manner, a user's fingerprint may be measured.


In Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above, we see a depiction of the bottom half of the iPhone's backside. In this embodiment, the product identifier #190 may be a word with multiple letters. Depending upon the desired language or font, a word symbol may include one or more letters with a counter, or other fully enclosed portion. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, three counters 150, 160 and 170 are shown within the English letters P, o and e. In such an embodiment, direct connections to a sensor or charger may be provided.


Electrical Contact Concealed within Apple Logo


In Apple's patent FIG. 5 noted below we're able to see cross-sectional views taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 3 above, showing a sample electrical contact concealed within a product logo.


3AF 55

In this cross section of the housing #110, the large insert portion #130 and small insert portion 120 are shown connecting to corresponding leads #130a and #120a. As described above, the leads may electrically couple to any suitable circuitry, such as charging circuitry or sensor circuitry. In this embodiment, the housing may be constructed from an insulating material, such as plastic. In this way, the housing may serve as an insulating boundary between the insert portions.


Apple's patent FIG. 6 depicts a cross-sectional view taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 3, showing a sample electrical contact concealed within a product logo. And Apple's patent FIG. 7 depicts a cross-sectional view taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 4, showing an alternate sample electrical contact concealed within a product logo.


Apple Invents a New iPhone Charging Dock Concept


In an interesting twist, Apple elaborated on the circuitry that may be able to be used as a charging circuit for replenishing the charge of a battery within an iPhone.


In such an embodiment, an external circuit may be required. For example, an external circuit may be a dock or a charging station with electrical contacts positioned and oriented to correspond to and interface with the insert portions #120 and #130 on the iPhone's backside.


For example, the small insert portion #120 may be configured to receive a direct current power source and the large insert portion #130 (FIG. 5) may be configured to couple to ground. In this case, a power source may be configured to align with the small insert portion #120 when the electronic device is docked. Similarly, a ground connector may be configured to align with the large insert portion #130. In this manner, a battery within the iPhone may be recharged.


The circuitry on the back of the iPhone for recharging would indicate that Apple is considering the design of an all-new iPhone dock.


Adding Health Sensors


In one last example of how Apple could hide sensors on the backside of the iPhone, Apple notes that one of the circuits could also be a heart rate monitor, or other sensor configured to sense a health parameter of a person holding or otherwise contacting the device.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Nicholas King as the sole inventor of patent application 20150185055 which was originally filed in Q4 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. Here are some other patent filings that listed Nicholas King as inventor: One, two and three.


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