Smartphone buyers can be an unpredictable group. Today they want this and tomorrow it’s about something else.
Not so long ago, it was all about screen sizes, hence the emergence of the term phablet. Today, phablets have become the new norm, with every smartphone maker looking to squeeze as much as display real estate in a device as possible. However, this has been a problem since the overall footprint of the devices had become outrageous – until recently.
With the emergence of the near bezel-less design, smartphone OEMs are able to deliver something unique where less is more. You get a device with a significantly small body size yet it packs a bigger than usual display screen. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is nearly the same size as the Galaxy S7, but the former has a screen size of 5.8 inches while the latter has a 5.1-inch panel. The story is the same for a good number of other phones that are adopting this new 18:9 aspect ratio, but this design change has come with a few challenges.
It’s true several OEMs have a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on their devices and customers like it that way. But for the years Samsung has been in the business, all phones that came with a fingerprint scanner had it on the front. Being the leader in the smartphone business, the shift from using a front-mounted sensor to a rear-mounted sensor on the Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8 drew lots of mixed reactions from the massive fan base the company enjoys across the globe. In a bid to keep everyone happy, companies, including Samsung, have been toying around with different ideas of how to keep the fingerprint scanner on the front panel while at the same time taking advantage of the new 18:9 design.
Initially, it was thought that Samsung Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8 would be the first in the world to use a fingerprint scanner under the display screen, but this did not happen. Somewhere in June, a report emerged claiming that Vivo, a company owned by BBK Electronics and has so far confirmed its plans to enter the Kenyan market in early 2018, would be the first to use this technology. At the Shanghai MWC 2017 event held towards the end of the same month, Qualcomm, the largest smartphone chipset maker in the world, confirmed that indeed Vivo will launch a smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner in early 2018.
Now, earlier this week, Synaptics, which is one of the big names in the biometric industry, announced that it is working with one of the “top 5” smartphone makers to release the world’s first smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner. As it is, the OEM in question is Vivo, but we still don’t know the exact phone that will be the first to use this technology.
According to a Forbes report, Vivo will be the first to use the new Clear ID FS9500 in-display fingerprint sensor. The sensor is reportedly “fast and simple” and it’s meant to save your phone’s battery life by staying inactive when not needed. When you need it, you should see a fingerprint icon on the lower end of the screen, just about the same place it appears on phones with bezels. Place your finger on this icon and the phone will be unlocked with the same convenience you are used to. As usual with Android, OEMs will be able to play around with the looks of this fingerprint icon on the display to make it unique.
As noted earlier, we still don’t know the name of the Vivo phone that will ship with this feature. However, the official unveiling or rather teaser is expected to happen at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 event that kicks off on January 9th in Las Vegas. Even if the phone does make it to the CES, it’s possible that sales won’t begin immediately.
Another important thing to note is that while Vivo has confirmed that it will be coming to Kenya, it’s unlikely that it’ll be accompanied by the world’s first smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner. Being in the top 5 list of leading smartphone sellers in the world, the OEM has plenty of phones that can be used to break into a market that is purely defined by price. If indeed Vivo does release this phone, it’s possible that it’ll be a high-end device. Since the company is expected to begin its march into Kenya with budget and midrange phones, you’d be better off keeping your hopes on the lower end of the spectrum.
Despite missing out on the chance to be the first company to adopt this technology, Samsung is also expected to join the party with a device of its own that is based on the in-display fingerprint scanning technology. Perhaps it’s too soon for the Samsung Galaxy S9, which is expected to be here in February 2018 courtesy of the MWC 2018, but there’s still plenty of time for the Galaxy Note 9.