With smartphone displays getting bigger and bezels getting smaller, the all important fingerprint scanner has to depart to the back of the device. This is not a very big problem unless you are like me who absolutely wants a fingerprint scanner on the front. So what do you do? Well, you put one inside the display. Yes, a breakthrough, which has been long rumoured with giant phone makers like Samsung and Apple, has finally come into existence. And as surprising as it may sound, it is the Chinese smartphone giant ‘Vivo’ who actually demonstrated a near final prototype at this years CES 2018.
Vivo partnered with Synaptics, a California based technology company who has been manufacturing touch pads for laptops for ages now. Synaptics FS 9500 which is basically an optical image sensor sits quietly between the glass and the OLED panel and works just like any other regular fingerprint scanner. For now, the Synaptics optical sensor only works with OLED panels. The device showcased at the CES has a Samsung OLED panel but Synaptics have confirmed that the optical sensor will work with any OLED panel out there.
How does it work?
So how does this thing work? Well, it’s not very hard to understand the science here. The moment you touch the screen area where the optical sensor sits, it lights up the display in that area and scans the print of your fingerprint. Now don’t get fooled, the sensor is capable of scanning some serious characteristics which then helps the AI (Artificial Intelligence) processor to differentiate it with the one registered in the device. All this happens in 0.7 seconds. It is surely slow when compared with the regular physical fingerprint scanners, but it isn’t slow enough to make you ignorant to this new technology. Remember the first fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S? It was fast but not as fast as the one found on iPhone 8 or even the OnePlus 5T. So with every other technology, the in-display fingerprint scanner will improve over time.
Synaptics claim that the optical sensor is as secure as any other fingerprint scanner out there in the market and with the lack of any other competition, we have to abide by what Synaptics say here. The unnamed Vivo handset is rumoured to make it to some asian markets in Q2 2018 and I can clearly see this as one of the trends of 2018. You might argue that a fingerprint scanner sitting at the back of the device is much more convenient, but let’s keep this argument for another day.
For now, a fingerprint scanner underneath the display seems to be a really cool workaround for near bezel-less displays. Also, going by the scheme of things, don’t expect this technology to come on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 or even the LG G7 for that matter. I expect it to come first to more Chinese handset manufacturers who share the same parent company with Vivo. And with what all went with the Face ID last year, Apple might have its eyes on this as well.
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Image Credit: CNET