If you’re looking to buy a smartphone these days, a fingerprint scanner will be among the key features to look out for. Currently, most devices embed these into the home button on the front, or place it at the back panel. Practically this enables transactions and the necessary authentication by pressing your thumb on the front or using your first finger on the back. Up until now, devices needed a physical button on the smartphone for the fingerprint feature to work. But that’s about to change, thanks to the new Vivo Under Display that the company announced at MWC Shanghai 2017. I checked the technology out and here’s what I think of it. Also Read - Vivo V21e 5G launch on June 24; company accidentally reveals in a tweetAlso Read - Vivo V21e 5G India launch expected soon, specs leaked: Here's what to expect
What’s unique about the Vivo Under Display technology, is the use of an ultrasonic sensor to determine the fingerprint pattern. This technology was first detailed by Qualcomm at CES 2016. However, it is only now that a manufacturer is able to demonstrate the capabilities, albeit through a prototype model. In this regard, Vivo has leapfrogged beyond the rest of the industry in presenting this technology to the consumer market. Also Read - Best 5G smartphones with top MediaTek processors under Rs 30,000 in June 2021
The advantage with ultrasonic sensors, as compared to capacitive sensors, is that manufacturers can package it below a glass dispay or a metal body as well, since it uses sound waves to create a 3D map of the finger impression. And since sound could travel through either material, it doesn’t hinder its ability to function. When Qualcomm first detailed the technology, it said how the ultrasonic sensors are relatively more secure than traditional sensors. This is due to the fact that it creates a 3D map of the fingerprint, making it difficult to replicate. Given the surge in digital crimes, this does make for a wiser step going forward.
According to Vivo, in addition to smartphone displays, the technology supports other surfaces as well, including such as metals, sapphire, OLED panels and metal shells among others. But what stands out as a USP of the technology is water, dust and sweat resistance. At the experience center, the technology was demonstrated through both display and metal surface.
Since the demos were carried out on prototype instead of finished consumer devices, there were a few glitches and lags as expected. The first prototype device had the technology embedded into the rear panel and showcased the water resistant capabilities. The volunteer dunked the smartphone into a glass cabinet full of water and registered their fingerprints underwater. Once registered, they were able to unlock the device simply by touching the ‘designated area’ on the back panel. If you look at the pictures below, there is no physical button or a sensor ring at the rear panel. For identification of the designated area, there was just a sticker.
The combination of water resistance capabilities, along with the fact that the device no longer has a dedicated sensor on the device is appealing. For instance, if your smartphone has an exceptional camera, you could continue capturing under-water videos and images without bothering of any water related damage since fingerprint scanners now also double down as camera buttons. The idea is to make the whole activity of unlocking or launching apps seamless. Having said that, I would like to point that there were some issues while authenticating under water. In one instance, there were problems launching the camera app but I finally succeeded after a couple of tries.
The second application demonstrated at the event was the much talked about under display authentication. Before we jump to the illusion of a no-bezel display, the prototype device did feature the standard thickness when it came to top and bottom bezels on the front panel. There was also a dedicated home button. However, the designated area was slightly above the bottom bezel onto the actual screen. So after the initial registration of the fingerprint, I struggled to unlock the device in one go. As there were three different devices, I tried my luck with a second device and was able to register as well as unlock the device absolutely glitch-free.
As a user of an iPhone 5S, which has a clickable front fingerprint sensor embedded under the home button, my natural instinct with the Vivo Under Display prototype was to move to the physical home button on the front for biometric authentication. However, when I did try out the display-based mechanism, it did feel slightly easier to unlock than having to strategize my finger or thumb to authenticate the device.
It is to be understood that the under-display technology has been only demonstrated through prototype models by far and the possible applications where a true full-screen display can be achieved while ensuring there are waterproofing features available by default. ALSO READ: MWC Shanghai 2017: Qualcomm announces Snapdragon Wear 1200 for low-end wearables
Vivo claims the technology will be in production soon, which means we might be able to see it powering its future line of smartphones. One of the prototype devices featured a Samsung Galaxy S8-like edge-to-edge display. Using the said technology, smartphones with such spilling displays and no physical button can be achieved. Vivo also envisions applications where the technology could be further enhanced to support gesture recognition, security verification, and more.
From a user perspective, the technology might simply mean a new way of unlocking, however, for manufacturers, this paves way for modifying the design language of the smartphones to increase screen to body ratio on the displays and get rid of the physical sensor buttons. To give an example, the standard USB ports and headphone jacks when exchanged for Type-C ports, significantly brought down the thickness of modern smartphones. ALSO READ: Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 platform announced at MWC Shanghai 2017
While it did not change the way we listen to music or charge our phones, it did bring in subtle enhancements which enhanced the user experience. Similarly, the Vivo Under Display technology aims to bring in a new way of authentication to smartphones. However, as we are yet to see a fully baked product running the solution and truly leveraging its potential by thinning down bezels and also offering water resistant capabilities, it is slightly early to call this as actually revolutionary.
Disclaimer Vivo sponsored the correspondent s flight and hotel accommodation for MWC 2017 Shanghai event.