We explain how the in-screen fingerprint sensor works

We explain to you how the in-screen fingerprint sensor works, its advantages and disadvantages! Fingerprint readers and sensors have proven to be one of the most secure forms of biometric authentication. While nothing surpasses PINs and passwords, fingerprints are more natural and very close to security terms.

Fingerprint authentication technology was successfully introduced on Apple smartphones a couple of years ago when the Cupertino tech giant launched the iPhone 5S. Subsequently, many other OEMs (as always) followed Apple's innovation by placing normal independent fingerprint readers on the back or front of their terminals.

This went on for years until 2018… when one particular Chinese smartphone maker saw the situation get boring and decided to take the fingerprint reader to a higher level.

In January, at the CES 2018 event held in Nevada, USA, the Chinese OEM Vivo presented the first terminal with an integrated fingerprint sensor on the screen. Dubbed Vivo X20 Plus UD, Vivo outperformed Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi.

How the fingerprint scanner works on the screen

The in-screen fingerprint sensor uses a fingerprint sensor to capture and identify users' fingerprint information.

This particular type of fingerprint sensor that works under the screen was started by Synaptics, a manufacturer of biometric fingerprint technology for smartphones, touch screens for laptops. Synaptics has developed the “Clear ID Synaptics sensor” (called Clear ID FS9500).

Clear ID is the first in-screen fingerprint sensor and was mass-produced for the Vivo for use on the Vivo X20 Plus UD and Vivo APEX 2022.

First, on-screen fingerprint sensors (Clear ID) are manufactured to work with OLED (AMOLED) panels and not other types of displays.

Literally, when you place your finger on the device, a light comes on on the finger, the sensor proceeds to capture the fingerprint and the device is unlocked.

Technically, in-screen fingerprint sensors work by using the light emitted from the pixel gaps on the OLED panel.

When the user places their finger on the sensor, this light illuminates the fingerprint and eventually captures it.

A high resolution capture of the fingerprint image is captured and an algorithm proceeds to detect unique patterns of its impressions by carefully analyzing each part of the captured image. The algorithm analyzes the dark and light part of the finger, as well as the ridges and grooves. To ensure effective capture of fingerprint data by any on-screen sensor, you need to exert some pressure on the screen so that the sensor can accurately distinguish the ridges and grooves of each fingerprint.

Advantages of the in-screen fingerprint sensor

1. The displays used for the in-screen fingerprint sensors are thin: this makes them very attractive, just as we enter an era where manufacturers are looking for the best ways to reduce the thickness of the phone's size. Although many original equipment manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Huawei have adopted the technology, we expect other manufacturers to do the same.

2. Easy to Access: Unlike rear-facing fingerprint sensors, it takes some getting used to, the on-screen sensors are easy to reach and relatively convenient for the user.

3. The functionality is independent of the condition of the fingers: the fingerprint sensors on the screen accurately detect fingerprints, even if the fingers are wet, cold or dry. Capturing fingerprints with normal scanners under these conditions is difficult.

4. Enhanced Security with SentryPoint: The on-screen sensors feature the highest level of fingerprint authentication in the industry, in short, they are secure.

Disadvantages of the in-screen fingerprint sensor

There are some disadvantages compared to the fingerprint sensor found on the body of the terminal.

1. Speed: Although with the fingerprint sensor on the screen, the phone is unlocked in about half a second (on average), it cannot be compared with the unlock speed of normal fingerprint sensors.

2. Interference: Tempered glass can cause delayed or inaccurate fingerprints. The sensor can also misbehave if the glass is thicker than 1,5mm.

Now you know how this sensor works and what its advantages and disadvantages are.

What to do if the smartphone fingerprint sensor does not work

Further Reading:

  • How to show the fingerprint sensor icon on the Galaxy S20
  • This is how the Samsung Galaxy A50 fingerprint reader works
  • How to speed up the fingerprint reader on Samsung Galaxy
  • How the ultrasonic fingerprint reader works
  • Samsung Galaxy A41 features and (what) price
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