Apple's latest iPhone will have fingerprint authentication, a major new technology that could give the Silicon Valley giant a valuable leg up in big markets such as enterprise computing and mobile payments, analysts and industry experts said ahead of the gadget's launch Tuesday.
Apple is expected to release a cheaper version of the iPhone in different colors for China and other developing markets, alongside a high-end version that will likely be called the iPhone 5S, according to The Wall Street Journal. USA TODAY spoke with several people familiar with Apple's plans but who are unauthorized to speak on behalf of the company.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
The new iPhone may offer more storage , upgraded photo-taking capabilities, a better battery and a faster chip. But what gets Wall Street and tech industry insiders excited is the fingerprint technology and the possibilities opened up for Apple by secure, easy authentication of smartphone users' identities.
"Everyone is looking at what this new phone can do, and one of the key things is fingerprint authentication," says Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um. "People are underestimating what this technology can do."
Um raised his price-range estimate on Apple shares to $525-$575 from $485-$525 on Thursday, partly due to the potential of fingerprint authentication.
Initially, the iPhone 5S will likely have the fingerprint tech near the home button at the bottom of the device, as this is the first place users touch when they open their phones. After their fingerprint has been verified, the full display will appear automatically, without users having to swipe and enter a four-digit PIN.
"The swipe and PIN was one of the things Steve Jobs hated. It was in the way of the user experience," says Sebastien Taveau, chief technology officer of Validity Sensors.
Identifying users through their fingerprints is more secure than passwords and PINs, so this technology could help Apple expand in sectors such as mobile payments and enterprise computing, which demand the highest levels of security , Taveau, Um and others said.
"Within the next two years the vast majority of high-end smartphones will have biometrics and mainly fingerprint log-ins. It's going to be very useful for payments," says PayPal President David Marcus.
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