At this year’s 2018 CES Las Vegas conference, Synaptics―a developer of touch-input in electronics―announced the release of the world’s first mass production in-display fingerprint sensor. Unlike the common capacitive fingerprint sensor used on the vast majority of mobile phones today, Synaptics bypasses the obstacle of integrating a capacitive sensor into a display by instead using an optical sensor beneath a display that scans fingerprints.
The Optical Sensor, Clear ID.
As Synaptics used an optical sensor and not a capacitive one, the company had to devise a way to overcome one of the integral problems with using an optical sensor―its inability to function under low light. As a solution, devices that implement the Clear ID sensor require programming to light up the region of their display that is under a user’s finger in the dark or when the screen is closed.
Preliminary reviews seem to support the sensor as an accurate and practical alternative to traditional capacitive sensors. However, it should be noted that, at least on the Vivo X21 UD, Clear ID proved slower, though minimally so, than a capacitive fingerprint sensor on anotoher smartphone.
As of now, none of the well-known smartphone manufacturers that sell to the U.S. have integrated Clear ID into any of their models. However, several Chinese smartphone manufacturers have already hopped on the bandwagon, notably Vivo and Xiaomi. Vivo this year released the X21 UD, effectively the first flagship smartphone with a Clear ID fingerprint sensor embedded underneath its screen, with Xiaomi following Vivo’s tail with the Mi 8 Explorer. Both companies have had to troubleshoot issues with the sensor’s recognition of fingerprints through a display. As a result, both the Vivo and the Xiaomi have programming that lights up the section of screen underneath the Clear ID sensor during the unlocking process.
Where can you buy one?
If you’re looking to find a smartphone with Clear ID and decent internals, the Vivo X21 UD can be found on Amazon. However, it should be noted that the Chinese ecommerce site AliExpress may offer a better price and more options/customization to choose from.
Practically, there is no real purpose or benefit to Clear ID, but in the smartphone market today, what does? Top-of-the-line smartphones are increasingly gravitating toward unnecessary but aesthetically pleasing features, like the recent trend of full-screen smartphones with minimal bezels. Clear ID represents a further step toward this trend, and, although unnecessary, provides an insightful look into how far technology has progressed.