As developers come to grips with Apple's upcoming iOS 7 mobile operating system, clues to the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's new approach to mobile security have emerged.
Following rumors that the next-generation iPhone would sport a home button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner, Apple released iOS 7 beta 4 on July 29, which contains code for a Biometric Kit. According to VentureBeat's John Koetsier, some revealing text is tucked into some of the interface components of the beta.
Koetsier shared some of the revealing text strings include. "'Photo of a person holding an iPhone with their right hand while touching the Home button with their thumb,' is one, while another says 'Recognition is x% complete,' and another says 'A fingerprint that changes color during the setup process'," he wrote.
iOS 7 represents a major shift for Apple. In addition to marking a radical departure from the mobile operating system's signature look, the newest version will feature a male voice option for Siri, new AirDrop-enabled peer-to-peer file transfer capabilities and a quick-access Control Center that allows iPhone owners to toggle and configure frequently used settings without digging through menu screens.
Consumers aren't the only ones Apple is targeting with the OS update. Of late, Apple has been publicizing iOS 7's mobile device management (MDM) capabilities. "iOS 7 provides enhanced security, powerful new ways to configure and deploy devices at scale, and features to help businesses purchase, distribute, and manage apps with ease," boasted the company in a recently published guide to the platform's new business-friendly features.
Enhancements include a "number of new commands, queries, and configuration options that make third-party MDM solutions even more powerful," informed Apple. On the security front, iOS 7 will also supports per app VPN, enterprise single sign on and data encryption for third party apps.
Now it appears that biometric safeguards are being added to the mix ahead of the next iPhone.
While Apple has remained characteristically tight-lipped about its future mobile device launch plans, the iPhone 5 is due for a refresh by September, according to industry watchers and the company's occasionally fluid release schedule. The device, widely rumored to be called iPhone 5S, is expected to include a fingerprint scanner in the aforementioned home button, potentially providing an alternative to the lock screen and other authentication methods that are imposed on iPhone users.
The lock screen, in particular, has proven to be a persistent thorn in Apple's side. More than once, flaws have allowed users to bypass the "Enter Passcode" screen, practically giving unauthorized users free rein to a locked iPhone's apps and data.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.