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As if getting cut and paste, video recording and voice control wasn't enough to get iPhone fanboy hearts racing, now Apple hints at fingerprint scanning as an input methodology for controlling future versions of the Jesus Phone.

You might be forgiven for thinking that there are few surprises left when it comes to the iPhone, after all Apple has done enough with the 3GS and iPhone 3.0 OS for it to sell out in a matter of days over in the UK.

Apple is not quite in the same league as IBM when it comes to the patent business. It certainly isn't likely to file 4186 patent applications in a single year for example.

So what has Apple been doing at the US Patent Office that has got iPhone fanboys all in a tizzy then?

Well, Apple already has the patent for swipe gestures on touch screen keyboards so that's not it, and I doubt it will be something as stupid as trying to reinvent the wheel or, as in the case of Microsoft, patenting Page Up Page Down.

How about using the iPhone touch screen as a RFID reader? Well, yes, Apple has filed for just such a thing by looking at using a RFID antenna within the touch screen itself to function as a rudimentary reader.

But that's not got iPhone users in a flap, perhaps because most of us are not yet sold on the whole RFID invasion thing. So maybe it is haptics instead.

Apple has also filed an application for a method of haptic tactile feedback using the touch screen. Now that's quite neat, if you could 'feel' the click wheel vibrating as it turns on screen for example.

But, no, even that is not the great reveal: that's the patent application for 'Control of electronic device by using a person's fingerprints."

Yes, Apple is looking at methods of not only introducing fingerprint scanning via the touch screen but also controlling "an electronic device" by detecting and using a person's fingerprints for good measure.

The abstract for the July 2nd filing states that a device, such as an iPhone perhaps, could "store user input signatures, including fingerprint signatures. The user input signatures can, in turn, be associated with user-selectable commands. When a user provides user input (including fingerprints) to the electronic device that matches one of the stored user input signatures, the device can initiate the associated user-selectable command."

The application describes how you could use your index finger to control the play button of such a device, while your middle finger could be used to fast forward. And there I was thinking that iPhone and iPod controls were pretty simplistic as is, but soon they could get even easier with totally non-visual, fingerprint controlled commands.

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