Qualcomm hides a fingerprint scanner under your screen

The first smartphones had full, physical keyboards featuring not only the entire alphabet, but all the punctuation and other keys necessary to communicate. Since then, though, makers have been working to remove every single button and port from each new generation of devices. Qualcomm is taking one more step in that direction with its new under-screen fingerprint sensor, shown off in its prototype phase in a modified Vivo XPlay 6 phone at Mobile World Congress 2017.

This new tech uses an ultrasonic signal to transmit the fingerprint data, and it will come to phones in two phases. First, we'll get fingerprint sensors that integrate into glass and metal bodies. These sensors can sense prints through 800µm of glass and 650µm of aluminum, compared to the previous 400µm limit. The display sensor will come a bit later, and will allow for fingerprint detection through OLED displays up to 1200µm thick. The new sensors can even read a print under water and detect heart beat and blood flow, Qualcomm says. That functionality should make it harder for someone to gain unauthorized access to a device using a fake fingerprint.

The sensors are designed to be integrated with Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors, though they'll also be available as standalone units for use with non-Snapdragon platforms. The glass and metal sensors are designed to be compatible with the Snapdragon 660 and 630, while the sensors that work with glass, metal and displays will be compatible with "future Snapdragon Mobile Platforms and non-Snapdragon platforms." Qualcomm VP of Product Management Seshu Madhavapeddy told CNet that current and future generations of products will work with this technology. "There's really nothing that needs to be upgraded to support this," Madhavapeddy said.

Engadget says the tech as implemented in the XPlay 6 is a bit laggy, but works as intended. The site also says that the detection window in the test XPlay is a small, marked portion of the screen. The demonstrators told Engadget that applying the sensor to the entire screen would increase the price significantly, but it sounds like manufacturers could cover, for example, the entire bottom third of the screen and leave the other two thirds free—thus offering a compromise between usability and price.

Rumors are floating arround suggesting that the next iPhone will ditch the dedicated fingerprint sensor as well. As CNet notes, though, relations between Qualcomm and Apple aren't so hot right now thanks to a royalty suit. In turn, it's entirely possible that Apple could be using its own tech for that functionality.

The glass and metal sensors will be available to vendors soon, and Qualcomm expects to see them in consumer phones in the first half of 2018. The display sensor won't be available to vendors until the fourth quarter of 2017, so we should expect handsets packing those a little bit later.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    Here’s to another cycle of

    -Applers saying Apple created it
    -Androiders saying X invented it first and Apple just stole credit
    -crapple
    -fandroid

    yada yada, the whole 9 yards. Practically every new tech that Apple mass ships first 😛

      • LeoScott
      • 2 years ago

      Apple stole the GUI and mouse from Xerox. Get over it, cupcake.

        • blastdoor
        • 2 years ago

        Not exactly. Xerox executives just made a dumb decision to sell access to their technological crown jewels for the modern equivalent of some beads and a few blankets. Not SJ’s fault they were dumb.

    • hasseb64
    • 2 years ago

    Margins, more profit!! The only driver
    More buttons which I like and is intuitive, cost money and pushes margins.

    • brucethemoose
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<] relations between Qualcomm and Apple aren't so hot right now [/quote<] Well they aren't pals with Samsung either, but that never stopped Apple from paying enormous sums of money for their chips. That being said, Apple will probably use an in-house solution. Not because they don't like Qualcomm, but because it's what they like to do, and is probably cheaper in the long run.

    • blahsaysblah
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]That functionality should make it harder for someone to gain unauthorized access to a device using a fake fingerprint.[/quote<] Im pretty sure someone who went to trouble of acquiring and making a copy of your fingerprint can figure out how to make a life simulating fake finger to put said fingerprint on.

      • strangerguy
      • 2 years ago

      *Robs somebody outside their house, open door with stolen key*

      -Keys are insecure, QED bithcs

        • cheesyking
        • 2 years ago

        The difference between physical keys and fingerprints is that you don’t leave copies of your physical keys on every surface you touch throughout the day.

        You can also change a physical key pretty easily if you know it has been stolen. Changing your fingerprints isn’t so easy.

      • UberGerbil
      • 2 years ago

      [url<]http://biometrics.cse.msu.edu/Publications/Fingerprint/CaoJain_HackingMobilePhonesUsing2DPrintedFingerprint_MSU-CSE-16-2.pdf[/url<]

    • UberGerbil
    • 2 years ago

    Supposedly Samsung was planning to use this tech in their Galaxy S8; but it wasn’t ready in time, necessitating a late design change that restored an old-tech fingerprint sensor in kind of an awkward location on the back of the phone. At least that’s the rumor I read somewhere.

      • blahsaysblah
      • 2 years ago

      The article does say that its not ready yet for being put behind a display + glass. Only glass or metal, aka touchpads? I guess its too bulky to put under the screen in the lower bezel.

      But im sorry, they’ve already found the perfect location, in the back of the phone, centered, somewhat lower than the camera. I use it with both left and right hands to unlock my Nexus 5X. It’s just perfect. I guess maybe could do same with thumbs in front, but picking up my phone automagically puts my index finger across it…

      edit: if not clear, there are no extra steps involved, just in process of picking up phone, i can unlock it. Dont have to pickup phone, swipe finger on the “home” button, than re-position phone in hand(s).

        • UberGerbil
        • 2 years ago

        The back of the phone is where my palm goes. All my fingers and thumb are on the edges of the phone when I pick it up. I’d have to reposition my fingers to hit the reader, then reposition them again to hold the phone comfortably. And if I’m doing anything with the phone beyond glancing at the time or checking notifications on the lock screen, I’m using my other hand to do something anyway so an extra step on the front of the screen isn’t a meaningful burden.

        For me, the perfect place for a fingerprint reader would be in the edge of the phone, though the thinness of modern phones would make it tricky (possibly you could slide your finger across it to scan the print).

          • blahsaysblah
          • 2 years ago

          Hmm, are you sure about that, your fingers are ahead of you palm. The very first thing you do is push your fingers under/across the phones back. Than you get it situated in your palm.

          Maybe its just cause i have the sensor back there. Its just been useful to unlock and use phone fully one handed quite a few times.

            • UberGerbil
            • 2 years ago

            When I pull my phone out of my pocket it’s with my left hand (left front pocket), and I do so by its edges. When I pick it up from a surface I usually do so with my right hand (I’m right-handed) but I then pass it to my left to use it — but both my hands grip it by the edges. My fingers don’t pass across the back at all. I’m sure I could get used to the separate step to hit the fingerprint reader (I just tried and after a couple of attempts I hit the camera, though it didn’t feel at all natural) but it would definitely be a separate step. I guess if I left the phone face down all the time I could hit the reader with my right finger as I picked it up, but I keep the phone face up all the time so I can quickly check the time / notifications with a glance or a double-tap.

    • christos_thski
    • 2 years ago

    You can find 100 dollar smartphones with good fingerprint scanners, but the cheapest “windows hello” compatible fingerprint reader is 35 bucks… That’s a bizzare state of affairs, considering that PCs are much more likely to be used by several different users, and that a whole lot of other technology goes into smartphones…

      • strangerguy
      • 2 years ago

      The funniest part is how the $100 phone has the same core and infinitely other more functions than a standalone PC USB LTE modem, and yet is still cheaper.

      • BoilerGamer
      • 2 years ago

      Cost is a lot lower when you build it into the device, for example the synaptic “tap and go” fingerprint scanner built into XPS15-9560 is only $25 extra(configure under keyboard options), but to find similar usb variants on amazon you have to pay $35+

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This