The Mobile Moment: How Smaller Smartphone Makers Are Confounding Biometric Expectations

The Mobile Moment: How Smaller Smartphone Makers Are Confounding Biometric ExpectationsIt’s always a busy time in the mobile sector in the weeks leading up to the annual Mobile World Congress, but this week a relatively unknown smartphone maker managed to make some news with its revelation that its next device will feature an in-display fingerprint sensor. That could make the company, China-based Doogee, just the second smartphone maker to commercially launch a device with this technology.

The first was, of course, Vivo, which put its pioneering X20 Plus UD on sale a few weeks ago. While that device features an optical sensor provided by Synaptics, Doogee hasn’t revealed the source for its technology – or much else concerning its new smartphone. And given the company’s history of releasing cheap devices with low-end specs, its boast of having in-display technology was greeted with a certain amount of skepticism.

The Doogee V’s most cutting-edge feature is all the more confounding when you consider that the biggest names in the mobile sector haven’t succeeded in bringing fingerprint recognition into their device displays. Leaked images of Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S9 depict a fingerprint sensor that is once again exactly where many users don’t want it – right under the rear-mounted camera system. And Apple, having reportedly failed in its bid to integrate Touch ID into its new iPhone devices last year, just gave up on fingerprint scanning altogether for its iPhone X, opting instead to use infrared facial recognition as its only biometric authentication mechanism. There are now reports that Apple is preparing to bring Face ID to all of its new iPhones for 2018, but there is no word yet on whether Touch ID will make a comeback.

The thing is, mobile fingerprint scanners exploded across the market in large part because of the example set by Apple’s Touch ID system, which was later reinforced by Samsung’s implementation of fingerprint readers into its flagship devices. In-display scanning was widely seen as the next logical evolution of this technology, so what does it mean that it’s being championed not by the trend-setting market leaders, but by smaller smartphone makers looking to make a name for themselves?

It could mean that in-display fingerprint scanning won’t actually be ‘the next big thing’ in mobile biometrics that it was expected to be, but rather a novel iteration of now-familiar biometric technology that adds a bit of value to lower-end smartphones. Or it could be that Apple and Samsung are forced to figure this technology out for their own devices, or else be humiliated by the technological accomplishments of OEMs with far fewer resources than they have. All that’s clear right now is that the technology has finally arrived. Where it’s going from here is still very much up in the air.