The next iPhone is almost certainly going to have a fingerprint scanner incorporated into the home button, if the rumors are at all correct. The fingerprint scanner could have a wide range of functions, from unlocking the home screen to password autocompletion. One possible use that I don’t think I have seen mentioned, but want to throw out there, is to allow multiple accounts per device.
Multiple accounts per device has long been a feature request for iOS, especially since the iPad was introduced in 2010. Particularly for families, multiple accounts per device would allow groups to buy a single iPad, instead of buying iPads for each person or sharing accounts, iPads, and Apple IDs.
With the fingerprint scanner, each person in a group could unlock their individual account with their fingerprint. Each account would be like a fully functional iPad; that person’s apps, settings, and content would load immediately. Once iCloud is better and Internet connections are faster, this information could be pulled from iCloud. In the mean time, this information could be stored on the device itself. Parental controls could be set the same way they are now, with the parent setting the controls behind a passcode on each child’s device/account.
I do not see Apple incorporating this in the next iPhone, for multiple reasons. First, the fingerprint scanner has only been rumored for the iPhone so far, and iPhones are not shared among people the way iPads are or could be. While I would assume iPads would eventually receive fingerprint scanners, in the short term, multiple accounts on an iPhone makes less sense than on an iPad. Second, iOS devices would run out of storage very quickly, with separate apps, settings, photos, and videos for each account. Third, iOS devices are simple and enjoyable to use because they feel like you own and control them. Adding multiple accounts could easily take away from this feeling.
However, if iCloud and Internet connections are fast enough, and if Apple is able to make multiple accounts easy to use, I could see Apple doing this in the future. In 2011, when Steve Jobs introduced iCloud, he said, “We’re gonna demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device.… And we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.” In 1997, Steve Jobs described how this digital hub worked. He had a computer at his home, Apple, NeXT, and Pixar, and was able to log in to any of those computers. No matter where he logged in from, each would feel and act the same, with all of the same files, apps, and settings. With iOS devices, Apple is not quite to this point, but with iCloud, this is hopefully where it is headed.