Qualcomm Unveils Ultrasonic In-Display Fingerprint Sensor

Qualcomm has announced a new in-display fingerprint sensor that uses sonic waves to read your fingerprint.

Dissimilar to the optical fingerprint sensor found in most 2018 smartphones so far, Qualcomm’s latest approach, dubbed the 3D Sonic Sensor, depends on sound waves generated from under your smartphone’s display to unlock your phone, reads a new report from CNET.

The technology employs an under-display fingerprint sensor solution that uses ultrasonic waves, unlike optical under-display fingerprint sensors which use light. Qualcomm states that them using ultrasound in the 3D Sonic Sensor is more secure and accurate than the alternative.

Qualcomm notes that the ultrasonic scan images the ridges and details of fingers in three dimensions, and is able to “see” through contaminants such as water, oil, grime, and debris to provide an accurate scan of the finger underneath.

Critically, the sensor fits inside a smartphone screen, enabling it to achieve the same space savings that would otherwise come from eliminating a home button or installing a narrow side-mounted scanner or awkward rear-mounted sensor. Qualcomm says that sensor will enable “sleek, cutting-edge form factors” and distinguish itself from alternatives by providing higher levels of security, speed, and accuracy.

It’s not clear exactly how fast we’re talking here, or whether this technology can approach the speed and accuracy of a modern capacitive sensor. But as a base technology, ultrasonic sensing seems like an important development beyond the current set of optical scanners that have received mixed reviews in the last year.

Qualcomm hasn’t announced any hardware partners at the moment. But according to the report, it’s possible that Samsung will use this sensor for its upcoming Galaxy S10 flagship.