The Galaxy S10's key feature will reportedly be ultrasonic

Because ultrasonic is way cooler than optical -- and might make for easier logins.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read
John Kim/CNET

It's one of the worst-kept secrets in the phone industry: Samsung is hoping to eventually sell you a phone with a fingerprint sensor that lives underneath the screen.

But how? Well, a pair of reports out of China and Korea suggest that sucker might be ultrasonic -- firing high-frequency acoustic waves through the glass that capture your fingerprint without fear of being defeated by dirt or grease.

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Did DJ Koh just flash the Samsung Note 9 in China? Sure looks like it -- note the fingerprint sensor placement.

@ShungNin on Weibo

Samsung's own head of mobile DJ Koh reportedly traveled to Wuhan, China this week to sit down with fans of the company's products, as documented by ShungNin on Weibo. And during that event, Koh was reportedly asked whether the Galaxy S10 would have an optical fingerprint sensor underneath the screen. According to ShungNin, Koh implied that Samsung wouldn't use an optical sensor but might pick an ultrasonic one.

Normally, an implication wouldn't be much to go on -- except that Monday, noted phone industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also suggested Samsung will use ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint readers in two of its three upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphones.

This is the point where you're probably wondering: Since when is Samsung making three different versions of the Galaxy S10? We actually heard the three-phone rumor last month from Korea's The Bell. Kuo's new report says only the two largest 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch models will have the in-screen fingerprint sensor, with a 5.8-inch model doing without, according to Business Insider

Honestly, we're intrigued by the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor idea. When we tested an optical fingerprint scanner on the Vivo X21, it left us wanting more. Plus, Qualcomm has said its ultrasonic sensors might double as heart rate and blood flow monitors.

Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.