What if the best smartphones of 2018 did not have the in-display fingerprint sensor?

We have been waiting for years for the in-display fingerprint sensors, and after seeing them work at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas thanks to Vivo, no one doubts that these fingerprint sensors embedded under the screen will be one of the most important novelties that we will see on high-end Android phones throughout 2018.

It still seems like magical how the sensors work, and they have taken so long to arrive that many people will think that their basic technology is the most complex thing in the world but it is quite simple to understand.

As the guys from Android Police, who talked with Synaptics at the CES, explained it, the screens in our smartphones are permeable to light and the thinner the panel is, the more permeable they are. So OLED screens had every chance of winning in implementing integrated fingerprint sensors before anyone else, since these are the thinnest screens manufactured, at least nowadays. Moreover, an OLED panel leaves space between the tiny leds that make each pixel so the light passes better through it, so everything fitted perfectly to mix together OLED screens and integrated fingerprint sensors.

When projecting a bright enough light through a light-permeable screen, a sensor behind it can see the reflex of the fingerprint on the screen’s surface and use it to create an image of this fingerprint that is readable by a processor or computer, in this case our smartphone.

Explaining it is simple, understanding it gets a bit more complicated and discovering the technology behind it has been even more difficult until Synaptics nailed it. The market was strongly demanding it so it was just a matter of time.

It is impressive but… is this the most we can aspire to in 2018?

Everyone who tried the fingerprint sensor installed in the Vivo smartphone was impressed. It works really fast, its fingerprint reading is trustworthy and it is capable of doing it no matter the finger’s position, as every other sensor installed until today on those ugly holes in the devices.

The only requirement is that the screen must be on and given the fact that OLED screens with ‘always on’ or ‘ambient display’ modes are a reality nowadays, it doesn’t seem like this would be a big issue for the arrival of these integrated sensors.

They are really cool, we want them, let them come to us! We want a clean front but we also want the fingerprint sensor placed as it should be, in the most comfortable place, the interior of the front panel.

But, is this the most we can aspire to this year in the luxury Androids? Maybe not, because it is likely that screen-integrated fingerprint sensors are late to their date with innovation in terms of biometric authentication.

An iteration of a leader smartphone maybe needs something more

Yesterday we were talking about this, after LG’s change of strategy, which for better or for worse will stop updating their smartphones annually, as the main manufacturers have been doing almost like a system, and start launching a new high range smartphone when it’s necessary and when there are updates that justify it.

It is true that finally implementing the fingerprint sensor under the front screen, tidying up the design of the devices, is something that we were all expecting, but after the arrival of Face ID and other biometric authentication systems, maybe this technology is too late and it doesn’t justify a new top of the range smartphone. Would you buy a Galaxy S9 if it was identical to the S8 except for a fingerprint sensor under the screen? Probably most of you wouldn’t, since it’s a lot of money…

Face authentication is a technology just as comfortable and even though it needs to work on its trustworthiness it will definitely improve in this matter. Also, it won’t be a negative experience for any user to look at his or her smartphone to unlock it, so Face ID has already won in this field.

This year, most manufacturers will definitely try to convince us that under-the-screen-integrated fingerprint sensors are an important reason to update our device, but sooner or later they will face the dilemma of whether to follow Apple in integrating Face Id, ignoring fingerprint sensors or not, whether they are integrated or outside sensors. Same happens with the audio-jack.

The debate is on, so we’ll be waiting for your opinions… In my case, I think it’s better to have more than less, so better to stay with the fingerprint sensor despite the arrival of a Face ID to Android.

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