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Samsung Galaxy S10’s new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and the tech behind it

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The Samsung Galaxy S10 was launched worldwide on February 20, 2019, and has set a benchmark in the market due to its innovations. Not only has the company moved away from the Apple’s notch design, but has cut-out a new design for their device — quite literally.

Instead of the bezel-less design with a notch, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 sports a new hole punch design for the display. But it doesn’t end with the display.

This time around Samsung ditched the idea of putting the fingerprint sensor either on the rear of the device or at the front where the physical home button used to be, instead they’ve placed one beneath the screen.

The in-glass fingerprint scanner is not a new feat in the industry, companies like Oppo, Vivo, Huawei, and OnePlus have all taken their turns in implementing this method.

But what makes Samsung stand out is that instead of using an optical sensor to capture a photo of your fingerprint, they chose to use ultrasonic waves that map the pattern and the print of your finger.

The fingerprint sensor was one of the critical highlights showcased by Samsung in their keynote. The phone overall is a beast of a performer. With the best-in-class display, triple cameras, Snapdragon 855 SoC, a remap-able Bixby button, and a whopping 8 GB of RAM to handle all this.

In this article, we will take a more in-depth look into Samsung’s new in-glass ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and the tech that comes with it.

Also read: Was removing the headphone jack a step in the right direction?

Samsung Galaxy S10’s new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner

Qualcomm enabled this technology of ultrasonic fingerprint scanning with their new Snapdragon 855 SoC, and they call it Sense ID. It is a 3D technique to map all the ridges and grooves of your finger with the help of very-high-frequency ultrasonic waves.

These type of scanners do not require you to swipe or keep your finger stuck to the sensor for long. All it needs is a couple of seconds at worst to unlock the device.

The tech behind it

To map a finger using ultrasonic waves, the hardware of the phone consists of a transmitter and a receiver. The sensor transmits an ultrasonic wave pulse when you keep a finger over the scanner. This pulse is partially absorbed and mostly reflected according to the unique pattern on your finger.

Another mechanical sensor is present that detects the various mechanical stress that is used to calculate the exact frequency and intensity of the reflected wave. These reflected waves return to the receiver at different points. This data is used to create a highly detailed 3D structure of your scanned fingerprint.

Samsung’s in-built AI captures more detail over time and merges it with previous data to create a more accurate 3D model of your fingerprint.

According to Qualcomm, “There’s about a 250-millisecond latency for unlocking, roughly equivalent to capacitive fingerprint scanners” and that is a great achievement. The sensor has about 1% error rate.

Why is it better than optical in-glass fingerprint scanners?

Well, since Samsung is using ultrasonic waves to map your finger, the chances of error are meagre, and the scanner even works with wet or greasy fingers, unlike the optical sensor.

The optical sensor refuses to authenticate the fingerprint when a wet or greasy finger is placed on the screen as it fails to match the ‘optics’ of your fingerprint with previously stored data.

Samsung has done an excellent job with their new flagship device. With already so much praise from the community, we hope the phone lives up to its hype.

Also read: Why do smartphones have so many cameras? How many do you really need?

Rajiv Kulkarni

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