Synaptics Announce An Under-OLED Fingerprint Sensor
Synaptics have announced the first in-display fingerprint sensor, meaning smartphone designers won’t necessarily need to compromise in designs. A huge number of smartphones today ship with embedded fingerprint readers, which requires the hardware designer to provide space for a fingerprint sensor. Or in the case of Samsung, to have to find space for such a sensor at the last minute, and produce a nonsymmetrical design at the back. Synaptics’ new sensor, called the Clear ID FS9500, works behind an OLED panel and can be used in any environment ranging from dark rooms to sunny beaches. Synaptics explain that their fingerprint reader is faster than facial recognition, clearly taking a jab at Apple for reinventing facial recognition as a means of unlocking the handset.
Synaptics new sensor incorporates a small CMOS unit designed to capture the reflected fingerprint sensor as seen through (and between) the OLED pixels. Because of this, part of the display needs to be illuminated when the sensor is used but how bright this part of the screen needs to be depends on the environment. The captured fingerprint is claimed to be of a high resolution but Synaptics have not disclosed the specifications. What they have explained is that it takes 0.7 seconds to scan the fingerprint, which is twice as quick as the 1.4 seconds it reckons a modern smartphone takes to scan a face. The smartphone activates part of the display based on accelerometers and other sensors, such that the fingerprint scanner is not constantly in use.
I can see a few potential issues with this. One is to ask the question of what happens when I simply push my finger up to the screen without moving the machine? It sounds like it will take a period of time for the smartphone to appreciate that somebody is trying to unlock it. Second, 0.7 seconds is a long time for a fingerprint sensor to activate. The OnePlus 5 takes 0.2 of a second, which is fast enough such that it feels immediate.
However, not to belittle Synaptics’ efforts here. Handset designers have a difficult compromise to make in squeezing all of the necessary components and if this sensor can fit under a display, this could help things. It is also a first generation product; second and subsequent generations of fingerprint sensors are sure to be quicker in use.