Whether Apple will be able to deliver on the rumor that it will be embedding its Touch ID fingerprint sensor beneath the display of the iPhone 8 remains to be seen.
However, a new demo coming out of the currently-happening Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2017 demonstrates that it is indeed possible — with Qualcomm showing off ultrasonic technology that allows fingerprint unlocking even through OLED displays.
In addition to this, the technology is waterproof, meaning that it will work fine even when a device has been immersed in water. Considering that the regular Touch ID sensor still has problems with reading wet fingerprints, that could be a notable improvement in one use-case.
A reporter for Engadget was at the demo, and wrote this:
“The demo started off with a familiar fingerprint registration process, except I had to place my finger on a marked area on the screen, which was just above the old fingerprint button. Once done, I was able to unlock the phone by touching that same spot using my registered finger; and just to be sure, I tried with my other fingers which fortunately failed to unlock the device.”
The report does note, though, that the technology takes “noticeably” longer to unlock than the near-instantaneous unlocking mechanism using dedicated touch sensors on current smartphones. The demo also only included a small area of the screen that would unlock the device.
Applying the same technology across the entire display would reportedly significantly increase production cost. Then again, with the new iPhone rumored to be the priciest one yet, maybe that could help explain it!
Now if only Apple could sort out that feud with Qualcomm…