How does Samsung’s ultrasonic fingerprint scanner differ from other in-screen readers?

Everything about the Samsung in-display fingerprint scanner is different and using ultrasonic tech is what makes it different. Prior to the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S10 series, there have been smartphones with in-display fingerprint scanners. However, this is the first time a smartphone features an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. This is because the ones before it are optical and not ultrasonic. Basically, it uses light to create a 2D image of your fingerprint. On the other ultrasonic type, sound waves is used to make a 3D structure of your finger offering more accuracy.

The ultrasonic scanner used in Samsung’s flagships is actually from Qualcomm, which is part of the added perks of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 on board. In fact, this is the third generation of the ultrasonic scanner by Qualcomm. A vision since 2013 when the company acquired Ultra-Scan, a company that produced ultrasonic readers for the US government. The optical fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus 6T, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro and so on is from Synaptics. This way, the Samsung ultrasonic fingerprint stands out from the rest.

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How it works

The way it works, the ultrasonic fingerprint world is much more different than the others. The ultrasonic fingerprint scanner sends sound wave which scatters when it hits your finger. This is measured by the scanner, thereby creating a 3D image of your hand. Then stored so that every time you want to unlock your phone it compares the image generated with the one saved. What makes this process more accurate is the ability of the sound waves to penetrate the sub-dermal layer. In this regard it reads into every pore offering much more detail than an optical fingerprint scanner. Unlike the optical scanner that shines light unto your finger thereby capturing only a 2D fingerprint image. If it comes to it, it can be deceived with a perfect printed replica of your fingerprint.

Discover: How an In-display Fingerprint Scanner works (and more)

Durability and added perks

Illuminating your fingers through the display leads to a gradual degrading of the OLED screen over time. For this reason, the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is not only more accurate but also durable. Not to mention the extra potentials of the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner on Samsung’s latest flagships due to its deeper penetration. It could function as a heart rate monitor, read blood sugar and so on. Going back to the primary job here, it can read your fingerprint despite having dirt on your hand.

Physical attributes

You can easily fit an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner into a slim smartphone because of small size. With a thickness of just about 0.2mm which is relatively negligible to the overall 7.8mm thickness of the Samsung Galaxy S10. In that way, it doesn’t get in the way of the portability of the smartphone. Nonetheless, the ultrasonic fingerprint does not read from more part of the screen as the optical type does. Covering about 25mm x 50.2mm area at the bottom of the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro and the entire screen on the Vivo Apex 2019 concept phone, the optical reader offers more space. On the other hand, the Samsung ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is active in only part of the bottom screen and is likely not to work with a screen protector.

See: The Vivo X20 plus UD is the first phone with in-screen fingerprint scanner


The Samsung ultrasonic reader pioneers a new system of biometric authentication which is more secure and has more potentials. Upcoming flagships will sure feature this type of fingerprint scanner this year going forward.

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