Taiwanese chip maker Chipbond could be providing Apple with components for its next-generation iPhone, dubbed iPhone 5S or iPhone 6, including parts that would be used to introduce a fingerprint sensor and near field communications (NFC) features to the upcoming smartphone.
China Times reports that Apple plans to use a fingerprint sensor in combination with NFC to carry out quick but secure mobile payments. The user will authorise a transaction by touching the fingerprint sensor, which previous rumours suggest could be built-in to the Home button.
Speculation over a possible fingerprint sensor in the next iPhone was sparked in July 2012 by Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec, a company that specializes in security systems such as fingerprint scanners.
Some reports predicted that Apple had rushed to acquire AuthenTec in order to put fingerprint scanners in the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, but both new devices launched without such feature.
It was also believed that Apple would implement NFC chips in the iPhone 5 to allow for quick mobile payments, but again, no such feature was introduced when the device launched in September. Apple did, however, launch Passbook with iOS 6, which could be expanded to include NFC and mobile payments functionality. Passbook acts as an 'e-wallet' for the iPhone, providing quick access to tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards.
In January this year, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has correctly predicted Apple product launches and new features in the past, said that he expects the iPhone 6 to launch in June or July with a built-in fingerprint sensor, as well as an improved camera and an A7 chip.
He expects that Apple will find a way to conceal the fingerprint sensor in the Home button to continue the "minimalist design" of the iPhone.
This could prove more difficult for competitors because many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, some of which only require a slight touch rather than the mechanical push that Apple's Home button needs. This means that fingerprint scanners in rival devices could be less intuitive for the user, and could cause frustration, said Kuo.
Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn reportedly began making the next-generation iPhone at its factories in Asia earlier this month, ahead of a possible June unveiling.
For more speculation, rumours and leaked images of the iPhone 6, check out our round-up here.