The iPhone 5s wasn’t the first smartphone to offer a fingerprint scanner, but it’s undoubtedly the most popular one to date. In fact, it’s so popular that Touch ID is now driving massive growth in the smartphone fingerprint scanner market, with sales of fingerprint scanning handsets expected to reach 525 million units in 2017.
In comparison, shipments of fingerprint scanning smartphones are expected to reach just 45.7 million units in 2013, according to the latest forecast from IHS. That’s up from only 4.5 million shipments in 2012.
But of course, not all of those smartphones will carry an Apple logo. Rival HTC has already announced its own fingerprint scanning smartphone called the One max, and we’re likely to see other competitors throughout 2014. History tells us Samsung will also integrate fingerprint sensors into its own devices (it loves to copy Apple).
“Fingerprint scanning for security, authentication and other purposes has always been a conceptually attractive solution in smartphones,” Marwan Boustany, senior analyst for IHS, told DigiTimes. “However, cost, size, performance and reliability issues have prevented fingerprint sensors from attaining widespread adoption.
“With the introduction of the iPhone 5s, Apple has overcome these challenges and has offered a fingerprint sensor solution that delivers seamless functionality. Now that Apple has shown the way, competitors are in a race to enter the market with similar systems, propelling rapid growth in the coming years.”
IHS expects fingerprints sensors to remain exclusive to high-end smartphones for the foreseeable future, with the components too expensive to integrate into cheaper devices. But as the technology becomes cheaper and more mature, you can expect to see it making its way to midrange and budget devices, too.
Believe it or not, the first cellphones with fingerprint scanners launched way back in 2000, thanks to Sagem. We’ve since seen the technology in devices from Motorola, LG, Fujitsu, and Pantech. However, earlier implementations of this technology were nowhere near as accurate or as reliable as they are today.