12.13.2017

Fingerprint Sensors are Here to Stay

In-display fingerprint sensors coming next year


Synaptics, the company best known for its Windows trackpads, has announced mass production for its optical in-display fingerprint sensors. This tech was first announced last year and will reportedly be available in consumer devices in 2018. 

This announcement will hit home for users of Samsung or Apple smartphones, which until this year, used front-facing home buttons located below the display. The Galaxy S8 moved the sensor the the rear of the device, specifically next to the camera. This placement has rightfully garnered a great deal of criticism, considering that other Android OEMs place the fingerprint sensor in the more ergonomic location of the center back.

Apple, meanwhile, has done away with the fingerprint sensor entirely on its flagship iPhone X. The Xbox Kinect-like TrueDepth camera array is no doubt a feat of engineering, but fails to offer the same ease-of-use as Cupertino’s ubiquitous Touch ID. The technology behind Face ID is an answer to a problem Apple itself created.

"Face ID is an answer to a problem Apple itself created."

Bezeless smartphones have been the trend this year, and the holy grail of handset design is to marry the intuitive nature of a front-facing fingerprint sensor with the Samsung-style Infinity Display. Synaptics’ technology and the imitations that are sure to follow move this once-impossible combination of features within reach.

The odd placement of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8’s biometric scanner were clearly a stopgap measure so that their Infinity Displays could ship this year. While more flashy, Apple’s TrueDepth Face ID is another way to appear forward-thinking and innovative while they await in-display biometric authentication. As TrueDepth scales, it may become less expensive to produce and so may be here to stay. That being said, it will likely play second fiddle to the return of Touch ID in the iPhone 11.