Expect Cheaper Phones To Get In-Display Fingerprint Sensors

In-display fingerprint sensors have become associated with OLED displays, but display maker BOE announced today that it is bringing in-display fingerprint sensors to LCD panels.

BOE Technology Group says that it has developed an optical in-display fingerprint sensor for liquid crystal diodes (or LCDs, as they are commonly called). The company says it plans to incorporate the technology by the end of 2019 for low-end smartphones.

In-display fingerprint sensors, according to analytics firm IHS Markit, were present on 18 smartphones at the end of 2018, and 30 million customers purchased smartphones with the new technology.

The full-screen smartphone design is rising in popularity as well, going from 9-percent in 2o17 to 65-percent in 2018 and perhaps reaching 81% by this year's end as 1.26 billion full-screen smartphones are shipped and sold. In 2020, IHS Markit predicts that 1.46 billion full-screen smartphones will be sold, with a global penetration ratio of 90%.

In-display fingerprint sensors usually appear on smartphones with OLED screens because organic light-emitting diode (or OLED) displays are thinner than LCD panels. There are some "smaller" LCD panels such as thin-film transistors, or TFT-LCDs as they're called by many, but even these LCDs are bulky compared to OLED panels.

Another reason perhaps why implementing fingerprint sensors into LCDs has been frustrating pertains to the presence of a backlight with LCD panels. Smartphones with LCD panels mandate the addition of a backlight to the display, making their size heavier than their OLED-paneled, high-end counterparts.

Perhaps it's the case that these new optical fingerprint sensor-embedded LCD panels are thinner than any LCD to date, which would explain how BOE can add fingerprint sensors into them as opposed to previous ones.

In-display fingerprint sensors coming to low-end smartphones with LCD panels is an easy leap in logic to make when it comes to the mobile market. After all, fingerprint sensors, in general, are biometric authentication, which every smartphone user needs to protect his or her identity and user data.

In this privacy-centric age in which consumers live, every user deserves protection against prying eyes, hackers, and thieves, no matter their budget. In the same vein, every smartphone should serve the public good, whether it costs $100 or $1,000. And fingerprint sensors protect the public. They're a protective technology every consumer wants and needs.

LCD panels have always been seen as a specification for low-end smartphones, since LCD panels are far more affordable and available than OLED screens. Samsung isn't the only OLED screen supplier on the market, but they are the dominant OLED supplier -- and OLEDs cost a pretty penny. So with the move to bring optical fingerprint sensors to LCD panels, BOE will definitely usher in a new era where even low-end smartphones get features from high-end smartphones.

The idea that low-end smartphones will see flagship features is a trend that some have called in the market for years, and it's now becoming a reality. Chinese vendors have become particularly inept at placing the latest and greatest technology into budget-friendly smartphones, causing high-priced vendors such as Samsung to do the same with its Galaxy A series recently.

Samsung's Galaxy A50, just announced weeks ago, features Samsung's very own Ultra Wide Angle Lens as well as a rear, triple-camera setup on the back cover, in-display fingerprint sensor, and a 4,000mAh battery. All of Samsung's Galaxy A series features the Ultra Wide Angle Lens and the in-display fingerprint sensor, two flagship features that many wouldn't expect in the A series.

Samsung has said it intends to bring flagship features to mid-range smartphones in order to increase mid-range sales. This is due, no doubt, to the stubborn Chinese market in which Samsung has been beaten and battered over the years due to the cutting-edge features and budget-friendly prices of Chinese smartphones.

The all-screen or full-screen smartphone trend is a major one in the smartphone market these days. The trend says that smartphones need to push the boundaries to create a setup where the entire front of the phone is nothing but glass or screen. To do that, Android OEMs are having to find where to place speakers, receivers, headphone jacks, fingerprint sensors, earpieces, selfie cameras, and eliminate bezels all at the same time.

The solution of where to put all these things is the display itself. In-display fingerprint sensors are becoming a trend, but in-display or under-screen cameras will take off next, as OPPO has just shown off its under-screen camera at MWC Shanghai this week.

Under-screen cameras, like their fingerprint sensor counterparts, will eventually make their way to low-end smartphones in the race to maintain the full-screen smartphone trend.

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About the Author

Deidre Richardson

Staff News Writer
Deidre Richardson is a tech lover whose insatiable desire for all things tech has kept her in tech journalism some eight years now. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned BA degrees in both History and Music. Since graduating from Carolina in 2006, Richardson obtained a Master of Divinity degree and spent four years in postgraduate seminary studies. She's written five books since 2017 and all of them are available at Amazon. You can connect with Deidre Richardson on Facebook.