One of the few truly innovative features we saw in smartphones this year was the in-display fingerprint reader. The new technology was most notably used by OnePlus and Huawei in their latest flagship phones, the 6T and Mate 20 Pro respectively, offering users that prefer to use their fingerprint as an unlocking method to do that by conveniently placing their thumb where it naturally goes on the display.
This first generation of in-display fingerprint readers have the so-called optical scanners that use light from the display itself to basically take a picture of your thumb and compare it to the ones stored when you were setting up your fingerprint. This not only made them less secure than conventional fingerprint readers but also not as fast or easy to use. But all that’s about to change. At least if Qualcomm is to be believed.
At its Snapdragon Tech Summit event, Qualcomm revealed not only its latest high-end mobile platform but also announced that its ultrasonic fingerprint reader is ready to become part of next year’s flagships. The company is calling the tech “3D Sonic Sensor” and it’s the world’s first ultrasonic under-display fingerprint reader. The way it works is by sending ultrasonic waves at your finger and registering the way they bounce off the minuscule ridges of your skin, creating a 3D image of your fingerprint.
Besides being harder to spoof thanks to the added third dimension to the reading, the ultrasonic waves give another major benefit – they can pass through water and other liquids that might on your fingers when you’re trying to unlock your phone. This means accurate readings in less-than-ideal conditions. That’s the theory at least.
In order to put those claims to the test, we’ll have to wait until the first flagship phones with a 3D Sonic Sensor hit the market, which Qualcomm says will be in early 2019 (Samsung Galaxy S10 *wink wink*). It’s likely that eventually, all manufacturers that want an in-display fingerprint reader on their phones will switch to ultrasonic ones, due to the benefits that the technology provides. We’re all on board for that.