Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Hands-On With the First Phone Featuring a Fingerprint Reader Behind the Display

Vlad Savov, the Verge:

After an entire year of speculation about whether Apple or Samsung might integrate the fingerprint sensor under the display of their flagship phones, it is actually China’s Vivo that has gotten there first. At CES 2018, I got to grips with the first smartphone to have this futuristic tech built in, and I was left a little bewildered by the experience.

The mechanics of setting up your fingerprint on the phone and then using it to unlock the device and do things like authenticate payments are the same as with a traditional fingerprint sensor. The only difference I experienced was that the Vivo handset was slower — both to learn the contours of my fingerprint and to unlock once I put my thumb on the on-screen fingerprint prompt — but not so much as to be problematic. Basically, every other fingerprint sensor these days is ridiculously fast and accurate, so with this being newer tech, its slight lag feels more palpable.

The technology here is impressive, but it is an iteration on a security solution that has been eclipsed by accurate facial recognition that isn’t dependent on ambient lighting conditions. I know that, for the iPhone users who aren’t convinced by facial recognition, it’s only fair to compare this familiar technology against today’s version of Face ID and want to see both in a future iPhone model.

I don’t think that scenario is likely. There are shortcomings with Face ID today — it’s unreliable at very close range, some sunglasses don’t work with it, and it can’t recognize faces through facial coverings — but the next iPhone is likely to feature improvements to Face ID, not a duplicative authentication mechanism. From my limited perspective, it seems more efficient for Apple to use their engineering talent to make progress on Face ID rather than trying to integrate both.