Fingerprint scanners are becoming more mainstream by the day, with even sub-$200 smartphones from a slew of Chinese manufactures these days sporting them in one form or another. So widespread are fingerprint scanners likely to be this year that tier-1 manufacturers like Samsung are rumored to bring in another type of biometric sensor – the iris scanner – to differentiate its next-gen flagship handset, the much talked-about Galaxy S7. The reason for this sudden proliferation of the technology, which was strictly reserved for premium smartphones just twelve months ago, is the steadily reducing prices of the hardware. With more and more companies starting to develop fingerprint scanners, the price for this particular type of biometric technology is expected to fall by as much as forty percent this year alone, having already fallen by more than thirty percent in 2015.
With such a steep fall in their pricing, it’s no wonder that fingerprint scanners are becoming ubiquitous in lower mid-range handsets, and if the latest report is to be believed, the trend is not likely to reverse anytime soon. Coming to actual numbers, currently, a standard issue fingerprint scanner reportedly costs $5 a piece, but by the end of the year, the cost for the same is expected to go down to the $3 level, thereby paving the way for them to be incorporated in even entry-level models. Those already cherishing the prospect of the once-premium technology being available in cheaper handsets, however, have to remember that with steadily eroding profit margins, smaller players may find it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves in the sector, leading to a probable consolidation in the industry.
While the Motorola Atrix was one of the first mainstream smartphones to carry a fingerprint scanner, the technology got a serious impetus with Apple incorporating the ‘Touch ID’ fingerprint scanner in its iPhone 5s in 2013. Since then, of course, almost all manufacturers, big and small, have included the hardware with their premium handsets, with the Nexus Imprint on the Nexus 6P being a case in point. Even more recently, such technology has become so ubiquitous that recently-launched mid-range smartphone models even from reputable manufacturers, have begun to ship with fingerprint scanners, and many more are now expected to follow suit.