Apple could be planning to introduce a built-in fingerprint sensor to its next-generation iPhone later this year, which could spell trouble for rival smartphone makers, an analyst has predicted.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has correctly predicted Apple product launches in the past, has revealed that he expects Apple's next iPhone, dubbed iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S, to have a fingerprint sensor built in to the home button.

Finding a way to conceal the fingerprint sensor in the home button would allow Apple to keep its "minimalist design", says Kuo.

But competitors could have more difficulty integrating fingerprint technology into their devices because many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, many of which only require a slight touch rather than the mechanical push that Apple's home button needs. This means that fingerprint scanners in such devices would be less intuitive for user, and could cause frustration, said Kuo.

Speculation that Apple is working to add a fingerprint sensor into its products sparked in July last year, when Apple acquired AuthenTec, a Delaware-based company that specialises in security systems such as fingerprint scanners.

The fingerprint technology could be used to with Apple's iOS 6's Passbook, which has been a cause of concern for some who think giving the user easy access to tickets, loyalty cards, coupons and passes is a security risk. If the iPhone required fingerprint recognition in order to unlock apps such as Passbook, or verify payments, that security risk could be significantly reduced.

Kuo believes that a fingerprint sensor in the next iPhone could remove the need for usernames and passwords, allowing quicker and more secure authentication.

Kuo has also predicted that the next iPhone will launch in June or July with an improved camera and an A7 chip, and that it will be joined by a cheaper iPhone available in six colours.

He also expects that Apple will introduce a thinner, lighter 10in iPad, a Retina display iPad mini, a cheaper iPod touch and an improved Apple TV, and thinks that the non-Retina MacBook Pro lineup will be retired in favour of an all-Retina range.

[Via Apple Insider]

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