Qualcomm's new in-display fingerprint sensor should fix our 2 big complaints

Qualcomm has revealed the latest version of its in-display fingerprint sensor, promising faster and more accurate scanning for a technology brought back into the spotlight by the ongoing pandemic. Though for a while it seemed that facial recognition would replace fingerprint login as the preferred way to unlock your phone, the fact that such systems struggle with face masks has led to a resurgence in interest.

It's one Qualcomm is aiming to capitalize on. The company first launched its 3D Sonic Sensors for in-display fingerprint scanning two years ago, with the technology featuring in the past two generations of Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy Note flagships, among other devices.

Now, it's time for the 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2. As before, it's designed to fit underneath glass or metal, and scan fingerprints through that. This time around, though, it's just 0.2mm thick.

It means, Qualcomm says, the acoustic scanning tech can be positioned in more unusual ways. The scan area, too, is larger this time around. Whereas the previous system had a 4 x 9 mm scanning area, this Gen 2 version enlarges that to 8 x 8 mm, or a 77-percent bigger patch. That should make it less frustrating trying to line your fingertip up on the precise screen spot where the sensor is underneath.

In the process, Qualcomm says, the bigger scan area also means the 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 can collect 1.7x more biometric data. The result is a 50-percent boost in speed, tackling another lingering annoyance of some of the phones relying on the first-generation system.

The new sensor news comes shortly after Qualcomm updated its Snapdragon chipset ranges, both with the flagship Snapdragon 888 for high-end devices, and more affordable versions in more recent weeks. The Snapdragon 480 5G, for example, is expected to bring 5G connectivity – including both Sub-6 GHz and mmWave types of network – to a much more affordable array of handsets, potentially even around the $200 mark or less.

As for the 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2, Qualcomm says we can expect phones using the new chipset early in 2021.