Your move Apple: Qualcomm unveils on-screen fingerprint scanner

29 June 2017

New fingerprint scanner for the iPhone 8?

One of the most persistent iPhone 8 rumours involves the redesign on the fingerprint scanner – either that that sensor will move to the back of the device, or be embedded under the display. Now, support for the second option is gaining steam, with Qualcomm this week announcing it’s next-gen scanner is up and running.

Qualcomm showed off its new, under-the-screen sensor at MWC Shanghai, with a demo version displayed on a prototype Vivo device. The cutting-edge scanner uses ultrasonic technology to read fingerprints, giving manufacturers room to add thicker material between the sensor and a user’s finger.

In fact, the reader will apparently work through up to 800 micrometres of glass, and up to 650 micrometres of aluminium. So companies will now be able to embed Qualcomm’s scanner under a device’s OLED display, meaning phones won’t require bezel space for a fingerprint reader (or be forced to move a sensor to the rear of your handset, as with the Samsung Galaxy S8).

More than a scanner

The technology will also allow users to unlock their phones under water, albeit only in shallow submersion depths. In addition to scanning an owner’s fingerprint, the all-new sensors will reportedly be able to measure heart rate and blood flow, even through glass of up to 1.2mm in thickness, and will detect directional gestures (e.g. left-to-right swiping).

Despite making prototypes available at MWC, Qualcomm doesn’t expect the technology will be available in Android devices until early 2018. Reports indicate that the company will begin shipping samples to manufacturers in October.

It’s an exciting reveal from Qualcomm, especially after Apple filed patents for similar ultrasonic fingerprint readers earlier this year. Whether or not the upcoming iPhone 8 actually debuts with an embedded scanner under the display, it’s still likely that Apple’s Touch ID will undergo changes designed to streamline to unlocking process, while still maximising security for iPhone users.

Qualcomm image via Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr.

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