Samsung Galaxy S9's Under-Glass Fingerprint Scanner Detailed


Paul Briden

29/11/2017 – 12:32pm

The Samsung Galaxy S9 could use a newly patented under-glass fingerprint scanner design

The Samsung Galaxy S9 might be the first smartphone to feature a fingerprint scanner successfully embedded under the display glass, if a new patent from Samsung is any indication.

We’ve heard a lot of talk in the last year and a bit regarding fingerprint scanners embedded under a phone’s display glass. The reason major phone makers have been interested in such technology is because of the trend for 18:9 wide aspect ratio displays, often with curved, wrap-around glass and minimal bezels. Essentially, this expansion of screens to massive sizes means they’re taking up the entire frontage of most new phones.

This leaves the designers with a decision to make; you either move the fingerprint scanner, or try to hide it inside the display glass. So far, everyone’s ended up going for the former option, with most new flagships sporting a fingerprint scanner on the back panel.

Apple got round this issue by using 3D face scanning on the iPhone X and dropping the fingerprint scanner entirely. It was rumoured for a while that Apple has tried to do the under-glass scanner thing, but failed and went for a face scanner instead. But post-iPhone X launch comments from Apple insiders claim the face scanner was planned from early on and there was never an intention to put a fingerprint scanner on the phone, under the glass or otherwise.

Samsung reportedly tried with both the Samsung Galaxy S8 series and the Galaxy Note 8 to get the under-glass scanner right, but it didn’t work well enough and a rear-mounted scanner was settled on instead.

For the Galaxy S9, which could launch in early 2018, it seems the third time could be the charm. Samsung filed a patent with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) April this year and has now received confirmation that the patent has been granted.

The patent describes a method of embedding a fingerprint scanner inside the display; the fingerprint scanner layer is embedded between the top glass layer and the main display touch sensor layer, while a pressure sensitive layer is embedded underneath the entire display assembly. This can deliver as many as 12 pressure points across the display which can be used to register biometric fingerprint recognition at multiple points, rather than via a traditional fingerprint scanner which is just in one location.

As well as continuing the usual implementation of allowing users to unlock the phone and make payments via fingerprint recognition, this multi-point scanner does enable some addition security functionality. For example, the patent appears to demonstrate certain app shortcuts or folders on the homescreen being security locked; tapping on that app shortcut or folder activates the scanner, which checks if you’re authorised to open it and allows you access if you are.

Going even further than that, it appears the setup could be configured to still allow access to all apps and folders, but display different things depending on whether biometric security is passed on the shortcut press or not. A photo album could hide certain photos from an unsecured users, only showing them to those who pass authentication, for example. Likewise with certain contacts in a messaging app.

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