Qualcomm may have cracked the problem of putting a Touch ID-style sensor beneath the glass of a smartphone display, but that doesn’t mean that we can expect it to ship any time soon.
The new technology was demoed last week at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2017 conference, raising hopes that Apple may also be able to debut similar technology in its next-gen iPhone 8. However, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Qualcomm’s technology still is “not perfect,” and there’s no clear timetable on its release.
Many have tried, none have succeeded
Embedding fingerprint sensors in the display of a smartphone, thereby allowing you to eliminate the Home button for extra screen real estate, is something a number of companies have been working on. But it’s also caused its fair share of problems, too. As a result, companies including Huawei, LG, and Samsung have all used rear fingerprint sensors as a stopgap to get around the problem.
Apple, too, has been rumored to be adopting a rear Touch ID sensor after having problems with a touchscreen embedded fingerprint sensor.
In his research note to clients, Kuo writes that: “Consumers don’t seem to have much of a problem with fingerprint scanners on the back of handsets; thus handset brands may be less compelled to adopt the ultrasonic solution as long as risks persist.”
He also addresses a couple of issues we talked about last week when discussing the technology: namely that has a slower response time than the current-gen Touch ID. Kuo writes that:
“We think there are still a few technological challenges to be addressed, including: (1) scan-through ability still has room for improvement; (2) slower to enable; and (3) slower response.”
Finally, he notes that the technology needs thinner-than-usual cover glass, as well as flexible OLED panels, to work — meaning that it’s unlikely to be taking the smartphone world by storm any time soon.
Will Apple deliver?
Personally, I’d love to see Touch ID embedded in the iPhone 8 — although I can see where the challenges exist. After the Samsung Galaxy S8 won plaudits for innovation, managing to pull off a feature that Samsung was unable to would show that Apple is still capable of leading the way when it comes to hardware innovation.
The iPhone 8 is likely to be Apple’s biggest upgrade since 2014’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it could also run the risk of being perceived as a “me too” device if it ends up looking like the Galaxy S8, but running iOS 11. Living up to its goal of putting Touch ID on the iPhone display would be a reminder that Apple can still pull of the miraculous as it celebrates the iPhone’s tenth birthday.
At the same time, given that services like Apple Pay have made Touch ID a vital part of Apple’s ecosystem, anything that’s going to be slightly slower (or, potentially, any less accurate) would be a terrible move for Apple to make.