Along with the Snapdragon 855 chipset, Qualcomm has also announced its newest ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which is being called the 3D Sonic Sensor. This is the latest iteration from Qualcomm, using ultrasonic technology, after having shown it off for the first time over three years ago. Qualcomm says that a major partner will be launching with this fingerprint sensor on their smartphone soon, though no names were announced just yet. But they are expected to be available in handset products in the first half of 2019. While this fingerprint sensor is technically separate from the chipset, Qualcomm does say that it is not dependent on the Snapdragon 855, but it won't be used with other chipsets, seeing as it is all part of one package from Qualcomm. Of course, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to have the Snapdragon 845 or even the 636 coming out with the 3D Sonic Sensor. But it does make sense to have it only working with the newer Snapdragon 855 chipset.
Qualcomm says that this under-display fingerprint sensor is the most secure fingerprint sensor available. That is because it can map your entire fingerprint, include the ridges and pores that are unique to you, in 3D. Unlike the fingerprint sensors that are available today, which are in 2D, and can easily be fooled. This sensor can also read your finger when it is wet, oily or has anything else – something that regular sensors are unable to do right now. This is the world's first ultrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor. Now you might be wondering about the SenseID ultrasonic fingerprint sensor that Qualcomm debuted a few years ago. Well that was not an under-display sensor, but instead one that was put in the bottom bezel of the phone.
Background: With Qualcomm using ultrasonic here for its under-display fingerprint sensor, it means that it is going to be more accurate, and also work better when your hands are wet and such. That is actually one of the biggest issues with current under-display fingerprint sensors from Synaptics and a few other suppliers. One of the major issues with current under-display sensors is the fact that they are slow, and if you have been washing dishes (and your fingers are all shriveled) then the fingerprint sensor won't recognize your finger. In general, the under-display sensors are not that great at recognizing your fingers anyways. But ultrasonic is going to change that. With ultrasonic, you won't even need to put your finger completely down on the display either, for it to recognize your finger. This is going to be a pretty big advancement for Qualcomm, and it should lead to more under-display fingerprint sensors that actually work as you would expect them too. However, the big questions is still, how many phones will have this 3D Sonic Sensor this time next year? We'll have to wait and see, but Qualcomm has said that a "major partner" will be using this sensor in their device.
Impact: In the past year, we've seen a lot of companies adding in under-display fingerprint sensors, though that has mostly been Chinese companies like OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus and Huawei. Now with Qualcomm making a much improved under-display fingerprint sensor, we should see more, larger and mainstream companies using the technology. Though, it also goes without saying that this is going to be an expensive component and could force smartphone prices to rise even more than they already have. This also means that there won't be another hole in the cases for smartphones, on the back, because there would be no fingerprint sensor back there. Which is going to result in a better looking and cleaner device for many people. Though that's not a big deal for most people, it also means that companies can cram more battery into these smartphones, as these sensors are smaller under-display than on the back of the phone.