Qualcomm is probably best known for making the chips that power smartphones, but the company has also been developing fingerprint sensors for a while.

The company’s latest drop the Sense ID name and are just called Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensors. And along with the no-nonsense name come features designed for modern smartphone hardware.

For example, there’s support for under-glass sensors that can be placed beneath a phone’s display, allowing you to login to your device just by tapping a spot on the screen.

Qualcomm says its new fingerprint sensors include options that work with display, glass, and metal, allowing device makers to put the sensors below a phone’s display, on the back of the phone, or beneath the screen.

Wondering how it can pick up your fingerprint through your phone’s screen? It’s because the sensor are ultrasonic, meaning they use sound waves that can penetrate glass and metal… as long as the glass or metal isn’t too thick.

Qualcomm says its Fingerprint Sensor for Display can scan through up to 1200 μm of OLED display stacks, while the Fingerprint Sesnors for Glass and Metal can scan through up to 800 μm of cover glass and up to 525 μm of aluminum.

Another nifty feature: the fingerprint sensors support IP68 waterproof devices and can be used even when you’re underwater.

Vivo and Qualcomm are showing off a modified version of the Vivo X6 Play smartphone using the new Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensor for Display technology at Mobile World Congress Shanghai this week… which helps explain that video of an unannounced Vivo phone with an under-glass fingerprint sensor we saw recently.

It’ll be a little while before you’ll be able to buy a phone with the new sensors though: the new glass and metal fingerprint sensors are expected to show up in commercial devices in the first half of 2018. Commercial devices featuring the new Fingerprint Sensor for Display technology aren’t expected to ship until summer of 2018.


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6 replies on “Qualcomm’s new Fingerprint sensors work under glass, under displays, and underwater”

  1. Well, this product doesn’t make sense.
    Why can it penetrate UP TO 0.8mm of Glass… but when it comes to displays, you know where it is made of Glass, plus TouchScreen, plus the OLED pixels, you know, generally more populated, more dense, and more likely to cause concerns with interference… they rate it UP TO 1.2mm’s

    Ummm, sounds dodgy already.

    And using Sound (ie Ultrasound) to read fingerprints will be Not Accurate.
    Otherwise they will be Accurate enough BUT will have to become very complex, very battery thirsty, and very expensive. The unit itself would require a capable chipset to emit, capture, 3D map, then verify on-chip for security.

    I guess Ultrasonic Fingerprints could be viable on Flagships like a $600 Android, or even better, a $1,200 iPhone.

    1. If the pOLED (plastic OLED) is covered with say Gorilla Glass, the sensor can only manage 0.8mm which is close but not enough

      The only place you’ll see this generation in smartphones is where there was a cut-out for a traditional fingerprint reader, to be replaced with less damage prone smooth piece of glass.

      Power is not an issue

  2. What they won’t tell you is about cost and power. That’s why almost nobody used their solutions so far.
    Under glass at 800um means that the glass must be thinned and that’s problematic so it was not used with other sensors that can deliver that, costs far too much without providing sufficient value.

    Under display is a new feature they offer (not the first) but we’ll see who has the better solution, optical or ultrasound. The roadmap here is to start with a small area and later cover the entire display. For an ultrasound solution to cover the entire display is a bit tricky and likely not the right technology.

    1. I’m not sure about the latest phones, but the iPhone 4S had a glass thickness of 900 um, so 800 isn’t that big a stretch.

      1. A fingerprint sensor is 1-2$ now, if you have to thin the cover glass, yield for the cover glass drops by quite a bit and that’s very costly as cover glass is not cheap. So it’s gets rather expensive.
        As i mentioned in my comment , such solution have been available for a while now but almost nobody is using them because it’s too costly to thin the glass. The target for under glass to make it viable is 1mm and as far as i know only Synaptics offers that with their new optical sensor.

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