Standalone fingerprint sensors have peaked in smartphones, says IHS Markit

January 17, 2018 //By Julien Happich
Standalone fingerprint sensors have peaked in smartphones, says IHS Markit
In his "Fingerprint Sensors Overview Report", IHS Markit's principal analyst for LEDs and lighting, Jamie Fox notes that the fingerprint sensors market is facing a major disruption following the introduction of Face ID, Apple's facial recognition system designed in the company's iPhone X.

Also competing with the traditional standalone fingerprint sensors are new in-display sensors, with Chinese vendors winning market share from Western vendors.

According to the analyst, the launch of Face ID by Apple means the Californian smartphone maker will almost entirely stop its consumption of fingerprint sensors by 2021, representing every year in-excess of 200 million fingerprint sensors no longer required in its phones. Overall, Apple’s decision to replace Touch ID with Face ID will lead to 1.1 billion fewer fingerprint sensors produced by the end of 2021 than if Apple had maintained Touch ID in iPhones.

This estimate is the combined total from both Apple and other competitors that will follow with their own 3D face-recognition solutions. This assessment is based on mobile handsets only; it does not include lesser effects of Face ID on other fingerprint sensor markets, such as notebooks and tablets, notes Fox.

Of course, rather than replacing fingerprint sensors, some manufacturers will retain fingerprint sensors in at least some smartphones, or use iris technologies or 3D face solutions in addition to a fingerprint. But this latest biometric shake-up is leading the sensor industry into a time of significant threats and opportunities, according to IHS Markit.

Fingerprint sensor suppliers now have to deal with significant internal disruption within the market for fingerprint sensors itself. As the market moves to under-glass sensing, ultrasonic and optical sensors will replace capacitive sensors that cannot send signals through glass.

Qualcomm already had at least two ultrasonic design wins in 2016, with Xiaomi and LeEco; while Synaptics recently announced its first optical-sensor design win. Further announcements can be expected to follow on this front throughout 2018.

Over the next two-to-three years, IHS Markit sees the fingerprint sensor market likely to move toward a true “in-display” solution, where the sensor is not just under the display, but also integrated into the display itself. These sensors will likely be able to recognize fingerprints in a large area of the display or even the entire display, rather than solely on a fingerprint-sensor button.

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