China’s Vivo unveils first display-based fingerprint scanning phone

In-display fingerprint sensor technology seen as Android phone makers’ answer to Apple’s facial recognition on iPhone X

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 11:51pm

Chinese smartphone maker Vivo has introduced the world’s first handset where users can unlock the device with a fingerprint scan on the screen, a move seen as the Android-based phone industry’s answer to Apple’s Face ID technology on iPhone X models as vendors eliminate home buttons to make way for bigger displays.

The Shenzhen-based company, which showcased the phone at CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday, said it will start shipping production models in the first half of 2018, without providing further details.

A new listing spotted on China’s 3C certification website revealed that Vivo is about to introduce a new handset called Vivo X20Plus UD – an upgraded version of its flagship X20 models launched in September 2017. Vivo X20 was also the company’s first full-screen smartphone.

The on-screen fingerprint feature is likely to see other Android phones follow suit as most major smartphone brands, including China’s Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi, have eliminated the physical button to introduce so-called 18:9 full screens to meet demand for larger displays.

However, the unlock feature has been a challenge for vendors, with Huawei’s flagship Mate 10 Pro putting the fingerprint sensor on the back of the handset in a compromised decision.

“Some brands like Samsung have featured iris recognition technology on certain phone models but user acceptance is low. If the in-display fingerprint sensor can prove accurate and efficient, most Android phone makers are expected to follow suit,” said Zhao Ziming, a senior analyst at Beijing-based consultancy Cyzone.

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In a statement Vivo said the fingerprint scanning technology showcased at CES was a “whole new mobile experience”.

The Chinese brand, ranked by IDC as the third largest smartphone vendor in China after Huawei and Oppo, believes it has solved the challenge of providing a better and more convenient fingerprint authentication system for smartphones.

The in-display fingerprint system was developed by Synaptics, a US-based company specialising in touch input technology for laptop trackpads and smartphone screens. Synaptics announced last month that its first optical in-display fingerprint sensor technology has begun mass production.

A number of Chinese smartphone makers launched full-screen handsets in 2017 to address the new trend for larger screen ratio phones. Gionee, a Shenzhen-based brand, introduced eight full-screen smartphones in late November, from premium to entry-level models, which competed directly against the bezel-less handsets from Apple.

Unlike most Android phones which use a fingerprint sensor on the back to unlock the device, Apple introduced facial recognition scanning to unlock its iPhone X, replacing fingerprint recognition on earlier models.

Although the US company claimed that its facial recognition technology was 20 times more difficult to hack than its fingerprint-based technology, some reported cases showed that the Apple’s Face ID function could be fooled by people of different genders and races.