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Synaptics' in-display fingerprint sensor coming to vivo phones, not Samsung (Updated)

Update: US biometrics company Synaptics' in-display fingerprint sensor will arrive first on vivo smartphones.

Published onDecember 15, 2017

  • Synaptics has announced that it has created an in-display fingerprint sensor called Clear ID
  • The sensors are currently in mass production in partnership with “a top five OEM”
  • New report confirms vivo will ship the technology first

Update (12/15): The mystery “top five OEM” Synaptics is working with has been revealed as Chinese manufacturer vivo. The confirmation comes from Patrick Moorhead, a tech industry analyst, who went hands-on with a pre-production vivo phone with a working Clear ID fingerprint sensor.

On the sensor itself, Moorhead wrote for Forbes: “The Clear ID experience was fast and simple- I pressed the right side button to wake, a fingerprint image illuminated at the bottom of the phone, I touched it, and it let me in. I am expecting vivo to modify the experience, so I just have to “hold to wake” so I do not even have to use the button.”

The confirmation represents a fascinating twist in the early evolution of the new technology. As we noted in our original report, Qualcomm revealed its own in-display fingerprint sensor back in June. This all kicked off at MWC 2017 in Shanghai where Qualcomm showed off its new tech in a prototype device based on the Xplay6 – a phone made by, you guessed it, vivo.

It’s also worth noting that Synaptics’ original claim that it was working with a “top five OEM” is a little questionable. vivo was in the top five based on global market share in Q1 2017 (according to IDC), but as of Q3 2017, Samsung, Apple, HUAWEI, OPPO, and Xiaomi occupy the top spots (with Samsung at the top). While vivo and OPPO are both subsidiaries of BBK Electronics – alongside OnePlus – the two are judged as separate entities in most analyst reports.

Unfortunately for Samsung fans, it seems like we won’t be getting an in-display fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S9 after all. This tallies with a series of newly leaked renders that show a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor on both the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.

Original story (12/12): Love them or hate them, phones with bezel-less displays are only getting more ubiquitous. It’s not just flagships anymore, either. Budget devices like the HONOR 7X are proving that you don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a “FullView” beauty.

2018 looks all set to be the year where bezel-less truly becomes bezel-less, with screen-to-body ratios expected to hit unprecedented heights. Yet while some won’t mourn the loss of redundant “foreheads” and “chins”, there’s one victim of the bezel-less revolution that continues to upset a cross-section of buyers: the death of the front-facing fingerprint sensor.

The most common solution so far has been to simply move the fingerprint sensor to the rear. This has worked out fine for some phones – the sensor on Google’s Pixel 2 XL works perfectly for me – but less so for others. I’m looking at you, Samsung.

Nevertheless, a front-facing sensor just makes more sense on the whole. It’s easier to access, makes using Android Pay far less clumsy, and generally caters to a much wider audience with variable hand/finger dexterity. Unfortunately, the industry’s obsession with a bezel-less future has pushed the front-facing sensor into extinction. Until now.

vivo showcases Qualcomm’s latest in-display fingerprint scanner

US biometrics company Synaptics has announced that it has perfected an in-display fingerprint sensor that is now in mass production in partnership with “a top five OEM”.

When implemented, the optical sensor technology, dubbed Clear ID, sits beneath a phone’s glass panel and delivers an authentication system that is “is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition and requires only one touch to access your smartphone.”

The Californian firm states that its sensors are fully capable in both wet or dry conditions and are fitted with anti-spoof technology and AES encryption. This is in addition to the physical protection provided by smartphone screens which will prevent scratches and damage (as long as you don’t smash it, I presume).

This is far from the first time we’ve heard about in-display fingerprint sensors, of course. Samsung was reportedly toying with the technology for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, then the Note 8, and it has recently been rumored for the upcoming Galaxy S9. Likewise, Apple allegedly had plans to include a Touch ID sensor within the iPhone X’s display before sticking with just Face ID, although Apple has since denied this was the case.

Synaptics was technically beaten to the punch back in June when Qualcomm unveiled its own under-display sensor technology. Yet, the news that Clear ID is in mass production is a big deal, especially when you read between the lines of the accompanying press release.

While the “top five OEM” part is vague enough, Synaptics used the term “infinity displays” three times, including once with a specific reference to OLED panels. What did Samsung call the displays on the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8 again?

Perhaps Synaptics’ sensor will make it to the Galaxy S9 after all. Only time will tell…

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