Who put these fingerprints on my imagination..?

It’s amusing how quickly a technological behaviour can be learned and taken for granted.

I upgraded to an iPhone 5S when they came out (from a three year old iPhone 4). In case you don’t know, one of its key selling features is Touch ID. This is a fingerprint sensor built in to the home button, i.e. That solitary button that sits under the screen on every iPhone.

I have been an iPhone user since the start. Building Touch ID into the home button means that the button itself has changed for the first time since the original iPhone in 2007. It is now flat, instead of mildly concave; it doesn’t have a small rounded square printed on it; there’s now an imperceptible extra ring around the button; and it feels nicer.

But most importantly it is useful.

The old routine was: Wake the mobile phone by pressing the home button, swipe the screen to get a passcode prompt and then enter the passcode. Now, with Touch ID: Wake the mobile phone by pressing the home button, then just keep your finger on the home button for an extra split second and the phone unlocks. No swiping, no codes, and it works.

Until I began using Touch ID, I never knew how how burdened I was by swiping and passcode-entering. Touch ID is a joy to use.

Less than a month later, I also upgraded my trusty old iPad 2 to an iPad Air. The iPad Air is sleek, amusingly light, a great screen but… it does not have Touch ID. The iPad AIr, for all its design and performance wow, still needs button->swipe->passcode to get going.

I noticed two things from this:

(1) How quickly technological behaviour can become learned.
I still interact with the iPad Air as if it has Touch ID, before I have to remind myself it doesn’t. I’ll hold my finger on the home button for an imperceptible little moment before I remember to swipe->enter passcode.

(2) How quickly the future can be defined.
The iPad Air is gorgeous to hold and use, and I’m very happy with it, but… but… it sells itself as being a piece of cutting edge technology and design, and yet it doesn’t have Touch ID. This means that it is easy for anybody to design (or rather, imagine) a better iPad Air in their minds: An iPad Air with Touch ID.

Touch ID on the iPhone is deftly executed and educates the user that this is a better way of doing things. It is impressive that in the 3-4 weeks between getting an iPhone 5S and an iPad Air, using Touch ID became the normal, de facto way of unlocking a device. It became an inherent technical behaviour alongside all the others like swiping and tapping. It was a better way of doing things that created a sense of entitlement in the consumers. Why does this iPad Air not have Touch ID? This is how we do things now.

Lesson learnt? When something is an obviously better way of doing something, and it works, then it is adopted rapidly.

(Side point – What are the medical possibilties? It should be possible to get at least a pulse oximeter into that sensor. Pulse ox and fingerprint sensor allows for data-collection which is tied to a specific user.)

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