In anticipation of the new iPhone series which dropped earlier this month, many fans were curious to find out what will the company choose in order to be able to use a fingerprint sensor without a home button.
When iPhone 7 arrived, the home button was already transformed as it used a haptic feedback button that could also scan fingerprints. At the unveiling of iPhone X, the world learned that the device will offer no support for fingerprint recognition, as Apple highlighted Face ID as a great alternative to secure your device in the long run. Some asked if Apple removed fingerprint authentication for good, or if they are looking for new technologies that would keep the process secure but also efficient.
Classic in-screen fingerprint sensor employs the insertion of the said sensor underneath the surface of the display. Usually, it is an optical system, using LED technology and light-sensing diodes in order to capture the fine details of the fingerprint. Capacitive alternatives were preferred but if you aim to have a full display on the front of the device, optical is the only way to go.
Optical recognition requires more space for the components, which would make the phone thicker. This is why capacitive sensors have been a staple for a long while on smartphones. Recent improvements have reduced the size of the optical sensors and it may now be feasible for use with a touchscreen display. A patent filling in 2017 led many to believe that Apple will use the technology in its new Phone line but they were wrong. The rumor mill was working at full-force in 2018 as people thought that the XS series will have fingerprint sensors but it did not happen.
In-Display Fingerprint Sensors
Android manufacturers have already adopted in-display fingerprint sensors for their new smartphones, and they will serve as a valuable test for the technology. The OnePlus 6T smartphone will be one of the first devices in the U.S. that will use the new sensors. Xiaomi Mi 8Pro will offer an in-screen sensor and facial recognition. There are also smartphones that use ultrasonic fingerprint sensors but they are not currently available in the U.S. like Vivo V11.
It is also reported that Samsung may use an ultrasonic sensor of the third generation of the new Galaxy 10 series. Made by Qualcomm, the chip will offer an improved security level since it is able to scan a full 3D image of the fingerprint, while optical solutions are only able to obtain 2D images.
Both fingerprint sensors and facial recognition have their advantages and disadvantages. Fingerprint sensors offer a more accessible way of unlocking your device since you only need to put your finger on your screen in order to unlock your device. As previously mentioned, optical sensors are also easier to trick without using sophisticated methods. Facial recognition is certainly more secure, but it may be not as comfortable to use. It may fail when you try to unlock your phone in the morning. If you register your image without wearing glasses, and then you put your glasses on you may have problems while trying to unlock the device. The same is available for the vice versa. Sunglasses will also pose a problem, and while Apple is working with manufacturers to create Face ID approved offerings, buying a special pair of sunglasses in order to be able o unlock your device without a PIN does not seem to be very convenient.
It has also already been proved that even facial recognition can be fooled if you are able to print an accurate 3D mask with stone powder. While this seems to be ripped straight out of a movie, it is doable under certain conditions.
It may be possible for Apple to ditch fingerprint sensors permanently unless a version that is on par with security level offered by Face ID becomes available. Ultrasonic sensors remain a viable alternative in order to securely unlock your device, and it is also easier to integrate under the screen. Users seem to be satisfied with Face ID for now, and many still opt to unlock the phone via PIN. If the technology will be embraced by Android users, it may make an appearance on Apple devices later.