After many failed attempts, Samsung might finally be able to bring optical fingerprint sensor with the Galaxy Note 9. The rumor mill had claimed in the past that the Galaxy S8 would feature an in-display fingerprint sensor. But fans were a bit disappointed to see a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner instead. Samsung also dropped the feature from the recently launched Galaxy Note 8 due to technical and security concerns. Now a top analyst says that the Galaxy Note 9 optical fingerprint sensor will turn out to be a reality.
Not too many people like the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the world’s most respected technology analysts, told investors (via Business Insider) that the upcoming Galaxy S9 would retain the rear fingerprint scanner. Samsung doesn’t want to adopt the feature on the Galaxy S9 in a hurry. The analyst added that Samsung was on track to incorporate the optical fingerprint sensor into the Galaxy Note 9, which would debut in the second half of 2018.
Interestingly, Samsung’s rival Apple was also working to add the optical fingerprint sensor on the iPhone X. Apple ditched the technology due to technical and yield issues. The iPhone X comes with 3D infrared sensors that support the Face ID facial recognition system. If Kuo’s report turns out to be true, the Galaxy Note 9 users will be able to unlock the device and authenticate payments by placing their finger on the screen.
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The analyst added that Samsung would use a unique technology for the Galaxy Note 9 optical fingerprint sensor. The Note 9 OLED panel will not just protect the sensor, but also act as a light source for the sensor. It will eliminate the need for an additional light source, resulting in better battery life. However, Samsung hasn’t yet decided on the supplier of the Galaxy Note 9 optical fingerprint sensor.
Samsung could source components from these companies
Ming-Chi Kuo has learned from reliable sources that Samsung was in talks with three firms to source the in-display fingerprint scanner components. One of them is Samsung’s sister firm Samsung LSI, which has already shipped the sample components to Samsung Electronics for evaluation. The second firm is Korea-based BeyondEyes. Kuo said Samsung is also in talks with its long-time partner Egis, which has extensive expertise in manufacturing fingerprint sensors.
Notably, Samsung had been working with Synaptics on an optical fingerprint technology for a long time. Supply chain reports suggest that Synaptics’ sensors were still facing implementation issues with the optical layer. The Galaxy Note 9 is still roughly a year away, giving Samsung plenty of time to pick a supplier and successfully embed the optical fingerprint scanner into the device.
Is it a stop-gap solution?
Ming-Chi Kuo believes the Galaxy Note 9 optical fingerprint sensor could be a stop-gap solution until Samsung or its partners develop an iPhone X-like 3D depth sensor to support advanced facial recognition. Samsung’s current flagship phones already have a facial recognition technology, but they take a 2D rather than 3D image of your face. Also, they can easily be fooled using a photo or a mask. Apple’s technology is far more advanced and secure.
In an earlier research note, Kuo had said that Face ID gives Apple a two-year advantage over its Android rivals. The analyst believes Android vendors such as Samsung will take 18-24 months to replicate the Face ID technology. The biometric technology is headed towards facial recognition. Since the announcement of the iPhone X last month, inquiries from Android vendors into 3D sensing technologies have tripled. The optical fingerprint technology is now taking a back-seat.
In the next 2-3 years, shipments of Android smartphones with iPhone X-like 3D sensing technology will be 2-3x higher than those with optical fingerprint solutions, said Kuo. Apple is once again setting the market trend, and making other vendors adopt new technologies. The 3D infrared sensor on the iPhone X not only unlocks the device and authenticates payments, but also enables augmented reality applications.
Ming-Chi Kuo explains in his report that the in-display fingerprint sensor works best with OLED screens. OLED displays are in high demand and limited supply because Apple and Samsung both use it on their flagship phones. Many Android vendors are struggling to secure OLED panels for their handsets. They find the 3D sensing technology more attractive because it works well with LCD screens.