One of the best features Apple added to its iOS devices is Touch ID. It makes it easy to unlock a phone, and unlock certain apps that use it, such as Dropbox, Day One, and others. Apps can leverage Touch ID to identify you, and my bank’s app lets me log in using Touch ID as well.
But there’s still no Touch ID on the Mac.
According to Patently Apple, Apple patented a Finger sensing apparatus using hybrid matching and associated methods, initially applying for this patent in 2007. It wasn’t called Touch ID back then, of course, and the biometric technology itself doesn’t belong to Apple; Apple merely patented its use integrated in a computer.
So why is Touch ID still not on the Mac? You can use a number of third-party apps on iOS devices to remotely unlock your Mac, but this is a hack. The beauty of Touch ID is that you press a button, and the phone or app unlocks immediately. With these iOS apps, there are several steps, making the process a bit complex; I can wake up and type my Mac’s password much more quickly than using an app.
I think for Touch ID to be integrated into Macs, there needs to be more than just a remote device, such as an app or trackpad. There is probably a risk of this pathway – iOS app to Mac – being compromised. Touch ID has to be unbreakable, so it can be used to authenticate websites and apps, not just unlock a Mac. It needs to integrate with the keychain on a specific Mac. So the sensor needs to be built into the Mac itself.
This is no big deal on a laptop, but it’s more complicated on an iMac. How comfortable will it be to press your thumb on a button that would be, for example, on the bottom right corner of an iMac? (Or could Apple integrate the Touch ID sensor in the Apple logo at the bottom of the display?) Unlike the iPhone and iPad, where the home button serves multiple purposes, a Touch ID sensor on a Mac will not have any other use.
I would love to see Touch ID on my Mac, not only to unlock it, but to enter passwords. Imagine how much easier it would be if logging into a website was as simple as pressing your thumb on a sensor. (It would be great if iOS adopted this too…) I’m sure Apple is working on this, but perhaps they will offer other techniques, such as voice biometrics, that some banks in the UK are rolling out soon, and bypass Touch ID on computers.