Did we just get a preview of the Samsung Galaxy S8's optical fingerprint scanner?
Samsung manufacturing partner Synaptics just announced a sensor of its own for smartphones. This might give us a clue of what's to come in the Galaxy S8 and other phones that use the company's parts. One rumor we keep hearing about is how the S8's design will ditch the home button and use an optical sensor for scanning fingerprints. Optical fingerprint sensors can exist under the glass of a smartphone's display, eliminating the need for additional bezels. They can also potentially expand the phone's display, giving you more screen and less bezel in the same amount of space. This ties into another rumor we've heard about the S8's nearly full-screen display. (Kind of like this stunning Xiaomi Mi Mix concept.)
The Synaptics optical sensor announced on Tuesday sounds a lot like what Samsung is trying to achieve. Its fingerprint sensor, named the Natural ID FS9100, is designed to exist under the cover glass of smartphones and tablets. It's scratchproof, waterproof and has a security layer that can tell the difference between fake and real fingers -- a problem with previous generations of optical scanners. The FS9100 optical sensor claims to be very thin and use up little battery power.
Whether this is the optical sensor we've been hearing about for the S8 or not depends on one crucial aspect: time. According to the announcement, the FS9100 optical sensor is slated for mass-production in Q2. If Samsung delays the Galaxy S8 while it strives to avoid repeating the same mistakes made with the exploding Galaxy Note 7, the two timelines could match up.
When asked about incorporating Synaptic's optical sensor, Samsung declined to comment.
Samsung isn't the only tech manufacturer looking to ditch the home button and make its devices bezel-less. Apple is also rumored to release iPads next year with no home buttons and minimal borders around the display, and so are Microsoft (here) and Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, with that Mi Mix I mentioned above. If device makers with trademark home screen buttons want to achieve full-display nirvana, they're going to have to find a new home for the fingerprint sensor: either integrated into the screen or somewhere else on the phone, like the back or side.