Smartphone In-Display Fingerprint Sensors May Get Better This Year
January 18, 2019 Andrew Cheng

In-display fingerprint sensors had been a dream for many of us, and it’s a dream realised last year on a range of smartphones. Be that as it may, it’s still a new tech, and new tech is generally rough around the edges – in-display fingerprint sensors are no exception.

But that could potentially change in the near future. Looking at recent leaks and rumours surrounding the tech, bad in-display fingerprint sensors may be a thing of the past.

Let’s start with Xiaomi. The co-founder of the company, Lin Bin, recently
posted a video on Weibo demonstrating Xiaomi’s new in-display fingerprint sensor. Unlike other offerings in the market now, the sensor shown in the video has a much wider active area; supposedly by up to 25 x 50.2 mm.

Basically, it will be much easier to activate the sensor. Users won’t have to look for a specific spot to use it anymore, which is one of the major shortcomings with current implementations of the tech. On top of that, Lin also elaborated that the new sensor allows you to unlock the phone with a single tap.

Without a doubt Xiaomi’s new in-screen fingerprint sensor shows a lot of promise, but there’s no word yet whether or not it will be implemented in future Xiaomi smartphones. Rather, Lin only said the company will consider releasing it in a new product if consumers like it.

Besides Xiaomi, Oppo also confirmed that it is working on a new kind of in-screen fingerprint sensor, which will debut on its products sometime this year. Much like the sensor Xiaomi is working on, Oppo is focusing on expanding the active area of its sensor. According to Oppo, the new sensor has an active area 15 times larger than competing solutions in the current market.

That’s not the only improvement, of course. Oppo also mentioned that the new, wider in-screen fingerprint sensor makes it possible to use two different fingerprints for “simultaneous entry and authentication.” While this isn’t the most groundbreaking feature, it will appeal to those who want an even more robust biometric security.

Interestingly enough, Oppo’s implementation is similar to what Vivo showcased last year with its Apex concept phone. Not only does the Apex have an in-screen fingerprint sensor with a large active area, it can also recognise two different fingerprint inputs simultaneously. Unfortunately, this sensor did not make it into the Vivo Nex – the consumer version of the Apex.

That being said, Vivo will be revealing the Apex 2019 next week on 24 January; it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume it will come with a new and improved in-display fingerprint sensor. Of course, whether or not this year’s iteration of the Apex is also a concept phone still remains to be seen.

It’s great to see phone makers putting emphasis on the development of in-screen fingerprint sensors to make them better. Chances are, this is only the beginning – there are still some ways to go before they are as good as traditional sensors.

For starters, in-display fingerprint sensors are still slower than conventional ones. While they can get the job done, regular sensors can recognise fingerprints much quicker. This, in turn, make in-display sensors more cumbersome to use.

On top of that, in terms of accuracy, conventional sensors are still superior. We’ve used quite a number of phones with in-display fingerprint sensors, and more often than not, we would have to activate the sensor a couple of times for them to recognise our fingerprints. Hopefully, newer in-screen sensors will fare better in this regard, especially those with a larger active area.

In-screen fingerprint sensors, while not as functional as conventional ones (yet), will definitely make their way into more and more devices in the near future; this is especially true of flagship smartphones. With this in mind, it’s important for these sensors to be much more usable than they are now.

Current iterations of the technology are “okay,” of course, but they have to work more seamlessly to not affect the user experience negatively. Nevertheless, we’re positive in-screen fingerprint sensors will get better this year, and this will be put to the test with the next crop of flagship smartphones.