Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
ExpertiseContent strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Using the world's first phone with a fingerprint scanner built into the display was as awesome as I hoped it would be.
There's no home button breaking up your screen space, and no fumbling for a reader on the phone's back. I simply pressed my index finger on the phone screen in the place where the home button would be. The screen registered my digit, then spun up a spiderweb of blue light in a pattern that instantly brings computer circuits to mind. I was in.
Such a simple, elegant harbinger of things to come: a home button that appears only when you need it and then gets out of the way. I would bet several Bitcoins that in-display fingerprint sensors become one of 2018's biggest phone trends, starting with high-end devices like the rumored
Samsung Galaxy S9
But the phone I held in my hands was not the Galaxy S9, which doesn't exist yet. It's a pre-production model by Chinese phonemaker Vivo, and it's still without an official name, price and sale date.
For phone enthusiasts, the real news is that this technology -- which was rumored for the
and beyond, and also for the
-- isn't just a bunch of hot air. It's real, and it works.
How in-display fingerprint readers work
In fact, the fingerprint sensor -- made by sensor company Synaptics -- lives beneath the 6-inch OLED display. That's the "screen" you're actually looking at beneath the cover glass. You can see it in our photos here.
When your fingertip hits the target, the sensor array turns on the display to light your finger, and only your finger. The image of your print makes its way to an optical image sensor beneath the display.
It's then run through an AI processor that's trained to recognize 300 different characteristics of your digit, like how close the ridges of your fingers are. It's a different kind of technology than what most readers use in today's phones.
Synaptics, which demoed the Vivo phone in a crowded booth at the back of an interminable hallway, says that the fingerprint reader won't suck up much more battery by illuminating your finger, promising that its power management is equal to industry standards.