Fingerprint scanner-maker Synaptics has today unveiled what we can only imagine is the optical fingerprint scanner rumored for inclusion in the upcoming Galaxy S8. Samsung and Synaptics have a long history of working together and the new Natural ID FS9100 optical fingerprint sensors certainly fit the bill of what we’ve been hearing about the S8 using a sensor located underneath the display glass in place of its traditional home button-based scanner.
The FS9100 sensor can be placed under as much as 1mm of glass, including curved 2.5D glass, and still accurately detect fingerprints. Synaptics claims the FS9100 excels with wet-finger performance, indicating you should have no problems unlocking your Galaxy S8 if and when it arrives with an IP-rating.
The new sensor positioning also makes it waterproof, scratch-proof (unlike previous Galaxy sensors) and extra-durable, while sidestepping electro-static discharge issues. Synpatics’ new sensors have reportedly made several key breakthroughs in optical scanner technology, something we previously felt was essential if Samsung were to use an optical sensor on the S8 rather than a newer technology.
Here’s what Synaptics’ vp of biometrics marketing, Anthony Gioelli, had to say about the implications of the new products:
Synaptics’ FS9100 family of fingerprint sensors represent a new breed of optical fingerprint sensor technology that is designed to meet the needs of mobile devices, including the ability to image through thick 2.5D glass. In addition to opening the door to new industrial design options, it enables OEMs to provide highly durable, button-free cover glass and more easily provide water-resistant products, while eliminating low-yield glass processing.
The FS9100 sensors demand minimal power consumption and afford extremely thin form factors. This, combined with the thinner display tech Samsung introduced in the Galaxy Note 7 – where the touch sensor layer is bonded with the display rather than attached underneath – is another reason to expect super-thin display glass on the upcoming Galaxy flagship.
Of course, Synaptics hasn’t come out and said the new sensor will debut on the Galaxy S8, but the language used to describe it sounds a lot like what we’ve heard from Samsung about the S8. “This innovation will allow the removal of the home button and enable cleaner industrial designs for smartphones,” Synaptics’ ceo, Rick Bergman, said.
Compare this to Samsung’s previous comments that the Galaxy S8 will feature “sleek and graceful” design and rumors that the power and volume buttons will be touch-based and that the screen itself will be edge-to-edge with no physical home button. As IDC’s Les Santiago notes, “The elimination of the smartphone home button is a critical next step to full top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge smartphone displays”.
However, there might be a spanner in the works here. Synaptics has said that it will begin mass production of the new FS9100 sensor in Q2 of 2017. That puts it in a problematic position for inclusion in the Galaxy S8 – if the Galaxy S8 arrives when we had originally expected it to. Recent rumors put the S8 announcement as far back as April, meaning the Synaptics scanner might still be ready in time.
Of course, Samsung has also been rumored to be working on its own line of in-house capacitive scanners, which theoretically could be brought in for the S8 if Synaptics’ sensors aren’t available in sufficiently high volumes. Those Samsung-built capacitive scanners are reportedly only planned for inclusion in mid-range devices though, so only time will tell how this one plays out.
You can watch a fancy “phone spinning in space” video on the FS9100 here.
Do you want to see a button-less Galaxy S8? What else do you think Samsung needs to make it stand out?