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What’s so special about the Samsung S10’s Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner

What is the ‘ultrasonic fingerprint scanner’ found on the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ and why is it the most secure way to lock your Android device in 2019?

Samsung ultrasonic fingerprint scanner

Capacitive Fingerprint Scanning

The vast majority of mobile phones currently use capacitive fingerprint scanning to scan your finger and allow access. They work on the principle that it is possible, if the distance is short enough, to transfer electricity from a capacitor to skin. To the capacitor, your fingerprint ridges are like hills and valleys depending on how much electricity flows away from it. It’s pretty simple (well not to me but to scientists I guess) and only works with skin. It can’t be fooled with a picture and if your were to try and make a mould you would need to find a material with same conductivity as skin, sounds a bit Mission Impossible to us, but it is possible.

Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanning

Ultrasonic fingerprint scanners work by using sound waves to build a three dimensional mould of your finger. The main advantage being that this technology is harder to fool, it is potentially much more accurate and the distance between the sensor and the fingerprint can be higher. The ultrasonic scanner also works behind metal and glass, therefore dispensing with the need for a visible scanner.  This means it could be behind the screen or in another location. Even if your fingers were wet, sweaty after a gym session or even a bit greasy after eating the scanner would still work.

The Samsung S10 and S10 Plus have an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner installed whereas the S10e has an electrostatic fingerprint scanner. The in-display fingerprint scanner is a great feature and the enhanced security it affords is a step up from where we are at the moment.  The feature will not work from behind a standard screen protector though, but our friends at Samsung have already thought of this, the S10 and the S10 plus comes with a screen protector already fitted.

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