Flashback: 20 years of fingerprint readers on cell units


In late 2000 Toshiba unveiled laptops with fingerprint readers, which allowed us to securely unlock their system with a contact of a finger, as an alternative of getting to memorize advanced passwords.

The primary telephones with a fingerprint reader on board appeared on the identical time. We expect that the very first was a Sagem MC 959 ID, though apparently Siemens had a working prototype as early as 1998.

Probably the primary telephone with a fingerprint reader, the Sagem MC 959 ID (picture credit score)

This was rapidly adopted by some PDAs because it was seen as a characteristic for enterprise units – why else would you want the additional safety? From then on, fingerprint readers on cell units caught round, however had been nonetheless a rarity. That endured till Apple propelled them into the mainstream.

Touch ID arrived with the iPhone 5s
Contact ID arrived with the iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s was unveiled in 2013 with a brand new characteristic referred to as “Contact ID”. It was a fingerprint reader tucked into the Dwelling button that also resided on the bezel beneath the show. Early on, the reader was used as a sooner various to the passcode unlock. A brand new use-case appeared a yr later with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which launched Apple Pay.


Apple iPhone 5s
Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 5s • Apple iPhone 6

Apple would introduce a sooner 2nd technology Contact ID with the iPhone 6s collection. Contact ID continues to be in use, with two new units in 2022 – the iPhone SE (third gen) and the most recent iPad Air – however it’s not Apple’s most popular authentication methodology.


Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Apple iPad Air (2022)

Apple iPhone 6s • Apple iPhone SE (2022) • Apple iPad Air (2022)

Apple could have popularized the fingerprint reader, however it could begin to transfer away from the thought in 2017 with the iPhone X, which dropped the reader in favor of Face ID – utilizing a structured mild sensor to get a 3D map of your face. Android makers toyed with related concepts, however the fingerprint reader continues to reign supreme on that aspect of the OS divide.

The Android aspect of the story had a clunky begin. Some early telephones just like the Motorola Atrix (2011) and the Galaxy S5 (2014) had primary readers that required you to swipe their finger throughout them. Apple’s capacitive answer was significantly better – simply contact the button.


Motorola ATRIX
Samsung Galaxy S5

Motorola ATRIX • Samsung Galaxy S5

Finally, Androids would swap over to the capacitive kind reader, inserting them variously on the again or on aspect (normally mixed with the facility button).

At MWC Shanghai 2017 vivo demonstrated a prototype telephone with a fingerprint reader that was beneath the show panel, what’s now generally known as an under-display reader. We bought an opportunity to check the system ourselves – it wanted work, but it surely felt so futuristic.

vivo would quickly after launch the primary mass market telephone with an beneath show fingerprint reader – the vivo X20 UD – which was rapidly adopted by the X21 UD. There was a sudden explosion of telephones geared up with UD readers that yr.

We additionally wish to spotlight the Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design from this technology. Not solely is that this Huawei’s first telephone with an UD reader, it really had two fingerprint readers – one beneath the show and one on the again (it is not the one one, both). The extra, the merrier, proper?


vivo X20 Plus UD
vivo X21 UD
Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design

vivo X20 Plus UD • vivo X21 UD • Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design

Most fingerprints as of late are both capacitive (those the place the reader is on the floor, e.g. rear or side-mounted) or optical (beneath show readers). However there may be one other form.

In early 2019 Samsung launched the Galaxy S10 collection, which had been the primary to characteristic ultrasonic fingerprint readers. These had been touted as safer as they might “see” your finger in 3D reasonably than 2D (like optical readers), which made them that a lot more durable to idiot. They did run into some points, although, with some display protectors inflicting the learn course of to fail.


Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

Samsung Galaxy S10 • Samsung Galaxy S10+ • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

The second technology of Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor coated bigger space and was sooner. Even higher, it supported foldable telephones. This introduced us the vivo X Fold, which has beneath show readers each on its cowl show and on the foldable inner show.

vivo Fold X with two ultrasonic under-display fingerprint readers
vivo Fold X with two ultrasonic under-display fingerprint readers

There hasn’t been a lot motion in fingerprint reader lately. They’ve turn into prevalent, even on comparatively low-cost units, however there have not been any main technological developments. Makers are attempting to make them sooner and greater in order that they might be extra handy to make use of, however that is hardly revolutionary.

As early as 2018 the vivo APEX idea telephone had a fingerprint reader that spanned half its show – take a look at our hands-on video to see it in motion. The additional measurement enabled a curious mode the place you might scan two fingers on the identical time, which provided additional safety. One thing that turn into a mass-market actuality with the vivo X80 Professional earlier this yr.


The vivo APEX concept phone had a massive fingerprint reader that covered almost half of the display

The vivo APEX idea telephone had a large fingerprint reader that coated nearly half of the show

From humble beginnings to a ubiquitous characteristic – fingerprint readers have had fairly a journey during the last 20 years. Have they reached their closing type, leaving solely minor enhancements to stay up for any further? Or do you suppose there may be nonetheless the potential for a revolutionary change just like the transfer beneath the show?