iPhone 13 with in-screen Touch ID being tested by Apple to solve the face mask problem

And it's experimenting with folding iPhone displays too

iPhone 12 Pro Touch ID Face ID
(Image credit: Future)

There are two things we know for sure: Apple will release the iPhone 13 this year, and many of us will spend most of that year wearing masks. So the news that Apple is bringing in-display Touch ID to the iPhone 13 is very welcome: the Face ID in the iPhone 12 is brilliant and superbly fast, but it can’t see through a mask.

The news comes via Bloomberg’s well-connected Mark Gurman, who reports that the 2021 iPhone 13 is going to be more of a spec bump than a huge release: we’re used to Apple’s tick/tock iPhone releases by now, and the iPhone 13 appears to be the tock to the iPhone 12’s big tick. A big part of that may be down to the pandemic, which Gurman says has resulted in Apple hardware engineers only going to Apple HQ a few days a week in limited numbers.

The pandemic is also a key reason to embrace under-display Touch ID. Apple moved away from Touch ID in favour of Face ID on its flagship phones in 2017, but as many Android users already know a device with a fingerprint reader under the screen, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21, is much easier and faster to unlock when you’re wearing a face covering. Apple’s supplier Qualcomm has just announced a faster in-screen fingerprint sensor. That doesn’t mean Face ID is headed for the bin, though. It’s still useful, and the sensors are required for depth sensing and AR from the front camera.

The story has been backed up by Apple leaker @LeaksApplePro, who posted that “prototypes of iPhone 13 with under the screen Touch ID are doing great so far.” 

Apple is also considering removing the charging port from some iPhone models to make them MagSafe-only, and it’s even working on a folding iPhone.

Never mind the iPhone: here's the iFold. Maybe.

Bloomberg says that Apple is testing folding displays for future iPhones. Don’t expect a folding iPhone 13, though: development so far hasn’t gone beyond the display. According to legendary leaker “a person familiar with the work”, Apple has yet to make any functional prototypes: it’s just folding those screens all day long.

The report says that the foldable displays Apple is working with are similar to Samsung’s folding phones, with a largely invisible hinge and the electronics located behind the display rather than two distinct display panels joined together. Apple is experimenting with multiple sizes, including one that unfolds to the same size as the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

For the time being, though, the best phones won’t be folding ones: Bloomberg says that any folding iPhone is “years away”, and that it may not become a product that Apple decides to ship. For 2021 Apple’s plans revolve around the iPhone 13, the new mini-LED iPad Pro, a thinner entry-level iPad and more M1-powered Macs including a new Mac Pro.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).