It’s no secret that Samsung has been working for years to bring the optical fingerprint reader to its flagship smartphones. Industry analysts and consumers were hoping that the feature would finally debut with the Galaxy Note 9, set to release in the second half of this year. That’s not going to happen, according to fresh reports coming out of South Korea. Samsung has informed its suppliers that it would place the fingerprint scanner on the back of Galaxy Note 9.
Last year, the rumor mill claimed that the Galaxy S8 would get an optical fingerprint reader. Samsung reportedly dropped the feature at the last moment due to low yield rates. The in-display fingerprint sensor was then expected to find its way into the Galaxy Note 8, but Samsung gave up due to security and yield issues. The feature won’t appear on the upcoming Galaxy S9 either. Samsung would be able to introduce the feature in 2019 at the earliest.
Supply chain sources told The Bell that even though the Galaxy Note 9 would launch without the in-display fingerprint scanner, Samsung is still working to refine the technology. The Korean company was testing in-display fingerprint sensors from a number of sensor suppliers, but it has decided to delay the commercialization due to “technical difficulties.” Sources told The Bell that Samsung would start making Note 9’s display panels in June.
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It’s quite surprising that Samsung is still facing difficulties with the optical fingerprint reader. Chinese vendor Vivo has already unveiled the Vivo X20 Plus UD with an in-display fingerprint sensor. Vivo uses Synaptics’ Clear ID FS9500 solution in its phone. Synaptics claims its in-display fingerprint sensor is faster and far more secure than other biometric technologies including Apple’s Face ID.
According to The Bell, Samsung is facing difficulties in implementing the technology due to its curved Infinity Displays. The Korean company hasn’t yet finalized a supplier, but has rounded down the possibilities. The company was testing sensors from Qualcomm, Synaptics, Iges TEC, and Beyond Eyes. All the existing options have one drawback or another, preventing Samsung from implementing the technology on the Galaxy Note 9.
The semi-transparent nature of Samsung’s OLED Infinity Displays lowers the accuracy of the optical fingerprint scanners. The capacitive fingerprint readers are transparent compared to their optical counterparts, which means they have a higher accuracy. But they reportedly suffer from durability issues. Samsung also tested Qualcomm’s ultra-sound in-display sensors that are durable and have a higher accuracy rate. But they are far more expensive and are slower than traditional sensors in recognizing fingerprints.
The Galaxy Note 9 display panels would enter production in June, which means Samsung would start assembling the phones in July or August this year. The company doesn’t have enough time to refine any of these technologies to the point that they could be incorporated in the Note 9. An unnamed executive told The Bell that none of the available technologies are ripe for commercialization right now. But “it will be possible” for Samsung to add an optical fingerprint reader to its flagship phones next year.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said on many occasions that Samsung’s optical fingerprint reader will be ripe for launch by the time Galaxy Note 9 enters production. Samsung’s face detection technology on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 merely exists for the sake of existing. It isn’t secure enough to authenticate payments. The location of the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor isn’t the most convenient either. An optical fingerprint reader is expected to be highly secure and convenient.
Over the last few months, Samsung has filed multiple patents related to the optical fingerprint scanner. A recent patent filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shows that the fingerprint sensor could be placed near the bottom of the screen. You simply have to put your finger in the designated area to unlock the phone and authenticate financial transactions. The sensor will give a vibrating feedback when it fails to authenticate the user.
The Galaxy Note 9 is expected to feature the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 chips that you’ll find inside the upcoming Galaxy S9. The phablet would come with an improved S Pen stylus that would work with your finger to enhance the user experience. It means you can perform certain actions such as erasing text on the screen with your finger, and other actions with the S Pen.
In terms of appearance, the Note 9 would retain the bezel-less Infinity Display. It should look similar to the Galaxy S9 Plus, but it will have some Note-specific improvements. The phablet will likely retain the 3.5mm headphone jack, the USB Type-C port, and the Bixby button. According to Korean media, the Galaxy Note 9 would also have machine learning chips to support AI features. Samsung’s machine learning chips have already reached the technological levels of Apple and Huawei.