What is the difference between fingerprint readers?


Have you ever wondered which type of fingerprint reader inside your phone is the most effective? We’re going to break down all the differences between ultrasound and optical scanners so you know which technology is better.

Fingerprint readers are one of the best ways to easily access your phone. alongside Face ID and the now much less common physical fingerprint scanner, it’s a simple way to keep your phone private and secure without having to type in a password every time.

But did you know that there are actually different types of fingerprint scanners common on most top Android phones? We’re going to talk about both ultrasound scanners and optical scanners so you know what the pros and cons of each are, and which technology comes out on top.

Without further ado, here are all the differences between ultrasonic and optical fingerprint readers.

What are ultrasonic fingerprint scanners?

If you have a high-end Samsung S-series phone, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you have an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Samsung initially added this technology to the Galaxy S10 lineup, with the scanner using inaudible sound waves to unlock your phone.

The scanner works by transmitting an ultrasonic pulse against your finger when it is above the scanner. These pulses can map the ridges and pores of your finger.

So when you place your finger on the scanner to unlock your phone, the pulses are sent back to the sensor, and if it recognizes your fingerprint, your phone will unlock.

samsung galaxy s10 fingerprint
Samsung has been using this type of in-display fingerprint sensor since the GalaxY S10

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ultrasound?

With an ultrasonic scanner, you don’t need to be precise when scanning your finger and it will work even if your hand is oily or dirty, as well as in low temperature and strong sunlight conditions, which is what the The optical alternative is struggling (but we’ll get to that later).

Plus, since every single ridge and detail of your finger is mapped in 3D, it’s much harder for someone to gain access to your phone using a 2D replica of your fingerprint. somebody.

But as with all things, there are some downsides. Some say you need to be careful with the screen protectors you buy because for the scanner to work there should be no air gaps between the screen protector and the actual screen.

What are optical fingerprint scanners?

Optical fingerprint scanners are far more common, found on phones from many brands at varying price points, from Oppo with the Find X3 Pro to Google and the Pixel 6 Pro.

Optical scanners work by reflecting light from your finger, which is why these phones light up when you touch the scanner with your finger.

Using an LED light to illuminate your finger allows the sensor to detect a fingerprint image using the light and dark areas created by your fingerprint ridges, instead of scanning the ridges themselves.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra fingerprint 9

What are the advantages and disadvantages of optics?

The main advantage of optical scanners, and why we see them so often, is that they can be cheaper to develop and operate.

Optical scanners have more downsides, the main one being that they’re easier to trick, making your phone less secure than if you were using an ultrasound scanner. Using a high-resolution image of a fingerprint could trick these scanners, and if your finger is oily or dirty, it will prevent light from accurately capturing your fingerprint.

What is better?

While both fingerprinting techniques have their pros and cons, it’s clear that overall ultrasonic scanners are the superior technology.

While optical scanners are more common and become more sophisticated over time, the ultrasonic nature provides more security for your phone and is easier for consumers to use.

Optical fingerprint scanners are unlikely to go away completely, and those using them now are likely to have few problems, but we expect more high-end phones to embrace ultrasonics, as Samsung has. , to ensure a better experience for their customers and to keep other people’s fingers off your phone.


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