Ever since the beginning, phone makers have been unable to settle on where should the fingerprint sensor live. They’ve tried placing them on the rear, front, side, and as of late, beneath the screens. Now, if you somehow missed following the trends, in-display biometrics were brought to the market first by Vivo primarily to achieve an edge-to-edge panel as there was no space for the fingerprint sensor on the front.
And if you read that last line again, you’ll realize how the predicament in-display fingerprint sensors are trying to figure out actually doesn’t exist at all. Well, for starters, only one out of the other positions are present on the front of phones. Therefore, if manufacturers do intend to get rid of the sensor from the front for making more room for the screen, they can easily relocate it to the back which I personally prefer over everything else. Not to mention that a vast majority of Vivo phones have fingerprint sensors on the rear too.
Even if we do assume OEMs didn’t have a choice and had to innovate for coming up with a better solution, we can’t ignore the fact that in-display fingerprint sensors are kind of underwhelming in their current state. Sure, they look whizzy and allow a phone to stand out, but as far as practicality is concerned, regular fingerprint scanners have undoubtedly a significant edge in a series of aspects.
The most important one is, of course, the fact that they’re dramatically quicker. In-display fingerprint sensors are in their first-gen phase and as a result, take a few milliseconds more to authenticate you. In addition to that, since they’re still quite new in the industry, putting fingerprint sensors inside screens probably takes way more research which consequently contributes to the phone’s price as well.
In-display fingerprint sensors can also turn pointless when you drop your phone and break the screen. Even if they do continue to function in those scenarios, I’m sure you will mind pressing your finger for a couple of seconds on a cracked piece of glass.
Moreover, the industry seems to be decamping over to the facial recognition land after the iPhone X introduction. Obviously, offering merely the software-based feature we’ve been noticing on various phones nowadays won’t be acceptable without a fingerprint sensor and going the iPhone X way will be nearly impossible for a few years on budget phones.
But yeah, there have been reports which suggest in-display fingerprint sensors will grow exponentially by the next year. Financial services firm IHS Markit claimed that shipments of phones with fingerprint sensors under the display will reach a hundred million in 2019. Furthermore, Apple was recently granted tens of patents, one of which was for a full-screen fingerprint sensor which might also enable the phone to scan palm prints.
So where does that leave the in-display fingerprint sensor technology? Nowhere, to be honest. There are no major reasons for them to exist and with facial recognition catching up, it’s difficult imagining a future where in-display fingerprint sensors will be the standard. The only advantage they have is that phone makers are able to achieve a cleaner design. Whether that’s enough to justify their existence, we can only wait and see how it pans out.