During MWC Shanghai, Qualcomm toook time to announce a new product they’ll soon offer: embedded fingerprint sensors in displays. Companies have been trying to solve the mystery of building a sensor of this nature into a screen so little to no bezels can be present on a device like a smartphone, but many have tried, failed, or simply can’t figure it out (cough, Samsung). Now, it appears that of all people, Qualcomm is first to do so.
The chipset maker demoed the technology on a tweaked Vivo-branded smartphone during the conference that shows off just how fast the sensor is. Admittedly, the technology is a bit slower than average fingerprint scanners, but it makes up for this in other aspects. Let me explain.
Not only has Qualcomm built a fingerprint sensor into a display, they’ve also included the abilities to read your fingerprint under water, read your heart rate, and even check your blood pressure all with the same sensor. The technology even works with processors like the Snapdragon 660 and 630, two mid-range chipsets you’d find in sub-$500 handsets. This means that manufacturers could even use this element in mid-range smartphones such as the Moto Z Play and not just in their flagship devices. Of course, it may jack the price of the devices up a bit, but wouldn’t it be worth it?
Unfortunately, while this technology is pretty incredible, it comes with one, fat caveat: OEMs will be forced to use OLED displays and not LCDs if they wanna use this piece of tech. Why? Because embedded fingerprint scanners need OLED to operate and the actual display panel itself needs to be under 1200 μm. Of course, this could ultimately push the use of OLED screens and potentially downgrade the appeal of using an LCD panel to a minimum, but for companies like LG who tend to gravitate away from OLEDs, this may come as bad news.
For the rest of us, however, it means that if you choose a phone with an embedded fingerprint scanner, you’ll get an OLED display and possibly even little to no bezels. Qualcomm says these new sensors will begin shipping in Summer 2018, so expect phones like the Galaxy Note 9 to have the technology. Of course, partnerships between Qualcomm and other companies could result in commercial devices getting the new sensor early, but we have yet to hear anything regarding this possibility. Stay tuned.