Going fingers-on with Qualcomm’s new Sense ID fingerprint scanning technology [VIDEO]



After Qualcomm announced their new Sense ID fingerprint scanning technology yesterday, we had to go see it for ourselves. While the name sounds vaguely similar to another fingerprint recognition system on the market, Sense ID promises a vastly improved experience.


Sense ID utilizes ultrasonic waves to map fingerprints in 3D. The benefits of this might not be immediately obvious, but let me explain. Much like a dolphin or whale uses echolocation to “see” the underwater world around them, Qualcomm’s new tech uses ultrasonic waves to generate a highly detailed rendering of your fingerprint. These waves are able to look past dirt and grime to provide an accurate reading in any condition. In fact, because water is a great medium for carrying sound waves, it actually works better with sweaty fingers.

This isn’t the case with the current generation of conductive fingerprint sensors found in devices like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S6. Those systems rely on a capacitive technology much like the one used to give smartphone touchscreens their magic. The result is not only a sensor that provides a less detailed fingerprint map, but also one that has a tendency to not work when confronted with dirty, sweaty fingers.

As you can see from our time with Qualcomm’s Sense ID, their new tech is lightning fast while producing a high resolution scan. Because sound waves carry, another benefit becomes apparent: the fingerprint sensor can be embedded behind glass, plastic, or even aluminum and still achieve its function. Even behind 4mm of glass, Sense ID still kicked out a perfectly suitable (albeit slightly lower quality) scan. Imagine the possibilities this opens up for manufacturers looking to incorporate fingerprint sensors in novel, design-friendly ways.


Sense ID won’t be available to manufacturers until later this year, but some current-gen Qualcomm chips, including the Snapdragon 810 and Snapdragon 425, already support the functionality. It will be an even bigger point of focus in Qualcomm’s next generation of mobile processors. The best part, though, is because this system has been developed by Qualcomm, a company that already provides silicon for a large portion of Android devices out there, there is a very good chance we will see Sense ID make its way to a wide variety of handsets and tablets.

Kevin Krause
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  1. I can’t wait for this… something that will get rid of that ugly button.

    1. wanted to say the same thing haha

    2. Something tells me Samsung would still keep the home button

      1. I prefer the home button.

        1. I don’t mind the home button so much but the side buttons that light up through the faceplate look cheap.

  2. Looked like he was having some issues with the 2nd phone getting in. He kept tapping capture but it wouldn’t go in like the 1st time. I’m sure they will work those quirks out but this is great news. They can now design phones with scanners without having to implement a button onto the phone. A scanner in that moto dimple would be great!

    1. thats a custom app to capture those prints.
      it looks like the app was crashing which i would attribute to that 4.04 version of android he was using!

      1. Yeah no biggie. I’m sure it’s something they can get right in the end product. =).

  3. If for future applications it is indeed embedded under the glass, I’m curious to see how tempered glass screen protectors affect its usability. At least if it’s embedded on the back of a phone, case manufacturers can leave an opening.

  4. Remember now that Sammy isn’t dissolving their relationship with Qualcomm and their chips so wouldn’t surprise me to not see this in their future phones

    1. even though samsungs scanner looks…good!
      i know i know.

      we have to try it out for ourselves and our individual use case…but it looks good :)

  5. Oops.. Meant Is dissolving

  6. This is awesome! The Nexus 5 has a bit of space in the chin area under the screen where I could see something like this end up underneath the Gorilla Glass.

    You get the sensor and still keep a nice, clean face.

    1. All I know is google and every android manuf. better have this as standard. this owns everybody!
      except…i havent had a chance to play with samsungs new scanner (supposedly using synaptics tech) which looks good also!

      1. What I like the best is that this is technology developed by Qualcomm. Apple can’t snatch them up to keep Android OEMs from having a better fingerprint scanner.

        1. very true indeed. though i wish samsung or google does! lol!
          i want one of them to own so that they will not hog it for themselves (though samsung may…). but you are right, qualcom isnt going anywhere anytime soon, so doubt they will sell the tech away. even though…samsungs new implementation may be all i need :)
          i have an iphone 5s for an mp3 player in the car, the fingerprint reader isnt 100%…so if samsung beats that or matches it i’ll be happy :)

  7. If they could stick this on a power button and still let me unlock the phone with something else AS WELL that would be perfect.

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