Mar 2nd, 2015

qualcomm-snapdragon

Alongside an announcement that they’ve teamed up with CyanogenMod, Qualcomm had some other interesting news to share this morning. The first bit of news pertains to the next generation of Snapdragon.

The details are scarce at the moment, but we’re told to expect Snapdragon “820” to be built with a FinFET 14nm or 16nm process, which would make for a physically smaller die that uses less power. Qualcomm will also be taking this opportunity to introduce their own mobile 64-bit CPU architecture named “Kryo,” which is a custom ARM v8-A chip. Sampling will begin later this year, which should mean first devices will start to use the new chipset as soon as this time next year.

But that’s not even the most exciting news out of Qualcomm today. The company announced a new fingerprint scanning technology that utilizes 3D imaging through supersonic waves to capture a user’s fingerprint instead of 2D-based sensors currently used by the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Dubbed “Sense ID,” the fingerprint scanner’s ability to capture a print using supersonic waves enables the scanner to be used even if the scanner’s surface is covered by plastic, glass and metal. Imagine a device that doesn’t require a physical home button or any other visible, tangible part that the user has to interface with in order to enable fingerprint scanning — !%&* just got real.

Samsung currently uses Synaptics’ surface area fingerprint scanner for the Samsung Galaxy S6. As you’ll see in our quick video showing the feature it doesn’t require you to swipe anymore, but it does still require a physical surface (and we suspect that’s the main reason Samsung still uses physical home buttons aside from visual differentiation). Apple would wet itself if Samsung could finally meet everyone’s wishes to ditch that button and place a scanner beneath a small bezel area unseen by the user.

More than just practicality and design, the ultrasonic 3D imaging also makes Qualcomm’s implementation more secure. The sensor’s ability to map the surface area — including the depth of the ridges and all the other unique imperfections in your fingers — makes it harder for no-gooders to spoof a 2D pattern based on your fingerprint.

Qualcomm says some of their current chips (namely the Snapdragon 810 and the Snapdragon 425) already support Sense ID, so device manufacturers planning to use their latest silicon will have the option to put these scanners inside forthcoming phones without much issue. Qualcomm is also working on a standalone solution for even more flexibility.

As good as the fingerprint scanning technology on the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 is right now, Qualcomm’s innovative take on it has us looking forward. We can’t wait to see who’ll be the first to take advantage.