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Qualcomm's new in-display fingerprint sensor is way, way bigger

Qualcomm has a new Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, quoted to have 17 times the surface area of the last generation.

Published onDecember 3, 2019

Qualcomm 3D Sonic Max slide tech summit


Qualcomm 3D Sonic Max slide tech summit

When it comes to in-display fingerprint sensors, most manufacturers traditionally use optical sensors that shine light up through the display to read the ridges on your finger. The problem with this, though, is that light can get easily distorted when shone through materials like water or oil.

Qualcomm’s solution? Use sound.

Last year, Qualcomm unveiled a new kind of in-display fingerprint sensor for smartphones, dubbed the 3D Sonic Sensor. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor uses sound pressure waves to read the ridges of your fingers. This means it presumably shouldn’t get distorted by other materials. On paper, it should work more reliably than optical options. In practice, we were fairly disappointed.

In our reviews of the Galaxy S10 series and Galaxy Note 10 series, the ultrasonic sensor proved noticeably slow and inaccurate. We didn’t see many other ODMs using the sensor throughout the year, but that might be about to change.

Also read: Qualcomm wants everyone to have a 5G phone, announces two new Snapdragon chips

Qualcomm has just announced a brand new ultrasonic sensor called 3D Sonic Max. The new sensor is 17 times larger than the last generation, and Qualcomm says it can read up to two fingerprints at a time for better security. Qualcomm also noted that this sensor is faster than the last generation, but we’ll have to put it to the test in the real world to see if this holds up.

If history is to repeat itself, Samsung would likely be the first ODM to use the 3D Sonic Max sensor in its flagship Galaxy S11 series devices. Here’s hoping we see wider adoption across the industry as well.

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