Component maker Synaptics says its first in-display fingerprint sensor is now in mass production. And it's coming to a phone made by one of the top five manufacturers in the world sometime next year – which may mean we won't see every Android phone maker switch to a Face ID-style biometric system.
2017 was a year of smartphone manufacturers banishing the bezels from the front displays of their phones, and moving the fingerprint sensors around the back of the devices (or removing them altogether in the case of the iPhone X).
Now it seems the technology is sufficiently advanced for the fingerprint sensor to make a return to the front of the flagships of 2018, operating underneath the display without interfering with the rest of the screen after the phone has been unlocked. In other words, when the fingerprint sensor isn't needed, it vanishes from view.
Synaptics says its new sensor, the Clear ID FS9500, works with both rigid and curved OLED displays, offering an instantaneous unlock mechanism that beats 3D face-scanning for speed. It can be squeezed into a gap of just 1.5 millimeters (0.059 in).
The fingerprint scanner works in bright sunlight and other "challenging conditions," according to Synaptics, and the unlock process must be very robust if a manufacturer has already signed up to fit the Clear ID FS9500 into one of its phones. The sensor can scan a finger or thumb from any angle, and keeps on working even if your digits are cold, wet, or both.
As for which manufacturer is including the sensor in one of its 2018 handsets, we don't yet know. But considering the tech is only just being announced, it would be unlikely to appear in the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, which are expected to be two of the earliest arrivals next year. We'll just have to wait and see.
Whether or not your next phone comes with the Clear ID FS9500, it's good news for everyone who buys a smartphone. It means more flexibility for handset makers in terms of their designs, and no more awkwardly placed fingerprint sensors on the rear of devices (though the Pixel 2 is one phone that managed to get that placement right this year).
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