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Qualcomm show off its new under-display fingerprint sensor

Despite being under immense pressure from its various legal battles, chip manufacturer Qualcomm shows no signs of slowing down. The tech firm has been pushing forward with its new ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, moving away from traditional capacitive sensors to underneath the screen itself.

With edge-to-edge displays becoming more popular in flagship smartphones, the next step in mobile engineering lies in implementing physical fingerprint scanners below the surface of the display. Balancing the thickness needed to make the display durable enough for consumer use while accessing the technology underneath proves difficult but Qualcomm are pushing forward on the new generation of fingerprint scanners.

The first sighting of the tech comes from Chinese manufacturer Vivo when Engadget’s Richard Lai got his hands on its latest prototype. The test shows Qualcomm’s new ultrasonic sensor to work through an OLED display up to 1.2mm thick, increasing the responsiveness through 0.4mm thickness for glass and metal to 0.8mm for glass and 0.65mm for aluminium. The sensor also improves upon the original, working through grease, dirt and when immersed in water.

Lai gives a rundown of his experience, saying “I found the fingerprint recognition speed to be noticeably slower — about one second between first touch and entering home screen — than the near-instantaneous unlock that I'm used to on most recent smartphones.”

Samsung compensated for the lack of technology on the Galaxy S8 by placing a capacitive sensor on the back of the phone and the recent leaks of the iPhone 8 show no fingerprint sensor at all. It’s entirely possible that Apple’s next entry will be implementing the equipment as the company has been experimenting with ultrasonic sensors, but it’s too early to tell.

KitGuru Says: Would you prefer a convenient but slower scanner on the front or the super-fast sensors relocated to the back of the phone? I use the back sensor on the Pixel XL daily and while the placement is comfortable, the response can be temperamental.

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