Fingerprint sensors to become standard on smartphones?

Fingerprint sensors are increasingly being touted as a way to make smartphones more secure, so sensitive data can't be accessed if a handset is lost or stolen.

So could this option move firmly into the mainstream in the next few years? A new report by Counterpoint Research certainly suggests so, predicting they'll soon become the standard authentication choice for smartphone manufacturers.

According to the report, this is partly because people are increasingly relying on innovations such as mobile banking and digital payments.

As a result, people are managing their finances on their phones and even using them as an alternative to other payment methods.

Therefore, they can't afford to be taking any shortcuts when it comes to authenticating handsets securely.

The Counterpoint report predicts that more than one billion smartphones with fingerprint sensors will be shipped across the globe next year – but it seems as if the figure could be much higher further down the line.

Samsung leads the way

According to Counterpoint Research, Samsung is currently the market leader when it comes to fingerprint-enabled smartphones.

Figures showed that it accounted for 12 per cent of the overall total between April and June 2017. This put it ahead of Apple, which had an 11 per cent market share, followed by Huawei with eight per cent.

Neil Shah, research director of Counterpoint Research, commented: “In terms of adoption across the total portfolio shipments, Apple and Xiaomi led, followed by Huawei and OPPO. 

“However, Samsung, ZTE and LG lagged their rivals with a relatively lower rate of fingerprint sensor integration across their total shipments. “

He went on to note that Chinese brands are already using fingerprint sensors as a means of standing out and competing with both local and global brands, particularly in emerging markets.

Mr Shah said they are adding capabilities beyond simply unlocking the phones or payments to include gestures to control the camera, gallery and other applications.

Are fingerprint sensors secure?

Of course, this is the big question around fingerprint sensors, as Counterpoint Research points out that most of the capacitive fingerprint sensors can be “easily spoofed”. Reliability is therefore, in Mr Shah's words, a “major issue”. 

However, he noted that the latest fingerprint sensors appear to be “potentially more secure”, as they feature sensors that offer live finger detection, or use fingerprint sensing technology to create a 3D image of the fingerprints.

As a result, he believes this “should be the next factor of differentiation” for smartphone manufacturers.

What will happen next?

According to Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research, the placement and type of the fingerprint sensor plays a big role in the overall design of a smartphone.

He therefore believes suppliers will “have their work cut out” and will be responsible for many of the design decisions made by major brands as they produce their next flagship device.

“Watch out for under the glass and in-display designs in the next wave of flagship launches,” he predicted.

“Furthermore, customising the smartphone sensor with a smart home button that can provide gesture support and over the top features like heart rate monitoring can also make it a more versatile sensor.”

Strong security and authentication features are more important than ever for smartphones, so it will be interesting to see what form they take in the coming years.

Written by Mazuma

Mazuma Mobile is the UK's most trusted mobile phone recycling service.

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