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Synaptics Takes Fingerprints to Infinity

January 9, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

Synaptics has completed a new fingerprint sensor that works through the display, a capability that simplifies the design of smartphones with so-called infinity screens. These screens fill most of the phone’s face, leaving only a tiny strip for the bezel. The new Clear ID optical sensor can be mounted behind the display, providing accurate fingerprint recognition through the glass and the display. Later this quarter, the sensor will debut in a flagship phone from Vivo, a Chinese vendor ranked in the top five worldwide.

Placing the fingerprint sensor under the display allows it to effectively disappear, so the screen can extend from edge to edge with minimal bezel. Users can still unlock the phone by pressing a finger to its front rather than awkwardly wrapping a finger around to the back, as with the Galaxy S8. The iPhone X requires an expensive 3D scanner for its Face ID function; other vendors have implemented face recognition using the standard front camera, but this approach lacks the depth capability of Face ID.

The first Clear ID product, the FS9500, supports AMOLED screens, which comprise an emissive layer and a conductive layer that both allow light to pass through. The sensor works through the display, cover glass, and screen protector at a range of up to 1.5mm—enough for most standard displays and cover glass. Most fingerprint sensors can operate through a cover of only 0.12mm; some premium models can handle 0.35mm, still not enough to get through standard cover glass. The Synaptics design offers 10 times the range of standard sensors—enough to fit entirely behind the display. This approach is a boon to phone makers that want to duplicate the look of the latest infinity-display phones without adopting finicky face recognition.

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