Apple have this evening announced two new iPhone models at the same time for the first time in their history, and there’s some pretty neat technology inside them.
The first – the iPhone 5C – is much the same as the outgoing iPhone 5 internally, but with a colourful, plastic shell replacing the cold glass and metal of its predecessor. The candy-coloured shell is made up of a single piece of polycarbonate, into which a steel frame is inserted to hold the internal components.
The real innovation comes in the shape of the iPhone 5S. At a glance you could mistake it for the iPhone 5, as it retains a similar design and feel, although it does bring new colour options of silver, black and gold (just in case it wasn’t tempting enough for thieves already). The internal processor is a new Apple A7 chip, which allows it to be 40 times faster than the original iPhone and, even more impressively, 20 times faster than the iPhone 5. The A7 chip contains over 1 billion transistors, which is significantly more than most smartphones and, by way of comparison, not that far shy of the 1.4 billion transistors found within the latest laptop processors from Intel. It’s also a 64-bit chip, which again is something more commonly found in PC processors, not phones. In other words, this is a big step forward that should keep the iPhone 5S ticking over nicely.
Perhaps the most exciting new addition though is Apple’s ‘Touch ID’ sensor. This is a fingerprint sensor contained within the home button of the device that allows you to unlock the iPhone 5S with a touch, without the need for passwords. You can also use it in place of a password in iTunes. The home button is covered by a layer of laser-cut sapphire crystal, a layer that serves two purposes. The first is to protect the delicate sensor beneath from damage, as sapphire is very strong. The second purpose is to act as a kind of lens, allowing the sensor to recognise elements of the sub-epidermal layer of your finger that we cannot see with the naked eye. Around the home button is a steel ‘detection ring’ that lets the phone know your finger is there, so it knows when to start scanning.
All very clever, but is it secure? It will be interesting to see how easy it is to fool the scanner, but in theory it’s a big step up from 4 digit passcodes. In an attempt to allay any concerns over privacy, Apple has given assurances that the fingerprint data will never be stored on their servers, and therefore can never be shared with governments or stolen by hackers.