MWC 2015: Qualcomm’s Sense ID fingerprint reader may be better than Touch ID


Since the iPhone 5s was released in 2013, Apple has widely been regarded as having the best fingerprint recognition technology – Touch ID. Samsung has only just caught up with its new Galaxy S6 smartphone, but in a few months, Qualcomm will release newer technology that should be even better than both of them.

Apple Touch ID

Apple’s Touch ID has long been the best fingerprint reader on any smartphone.

Qualcomm has just announced a new fingerprint recognition technology that uses ultrasonic waves to validate your fingerprint in 3D, according to the announcement today at Mobile World Congress. Unlike Touch ID however, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sense ID can read your fingerprint even when it’s wet or dirty.

It can also scan through “glass, aluminium, stainless steel, sapphire, and plastics”, which will enable smartphone manufacturers to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the phone’s design, rather than having to make a specific section out of a different material to support the sensor. For example, the sensor could be built into the bezel of a tablet, and would be invisible to the user.

Sense ID works even when wet

Supposedly, the new tech is more accurate too, which should mean fewer rejections when users swipe their finger over the sensor. Qualcomm claims that the ultrasonic technology (which is already used in professional biometric applications) can “penetrate the outer layers of skin, detecting three-dimensional details and unique fingerprint characteristics, including fingerprint ridges and sweat pores”. That should also mean it’s also much harder for someone to copy your fingerprint and then gain access to your phone.

Apple’s existing Touch ID uses an area-type fingerprint sensor which scans a 2D image of your fingerprint with a light press on the sensor. Apple in fact bought the company that made the sensor, AuthenTec, in 2012 – leaving everyone else to use the inferior Synaptics’ product which was a few years behind. Now, Synaptics’ area-type sensor is used in the Galaxy S6, but later this year, it should be superseded by Qualcomm’s newer technique.

Qualcomm says that Sense ID will be built into new Snapdragon 810 and 425 chips, and it will also be available as a standalone module. The first devices using it should be available later this year.

You can read the full press release on the Qualcomm website.


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