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The Galaxy S21’s advantage over the iPhone might have been confirmed

Published Jan 12th, 2021 7:31AM EST
Galaxy S21 Specs
Image: LetsGoDigital

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  • A Galaxy S21 rumor said in mid-December that the new Samsung phones will feature a significant upgrade over the Galaxy S20, which will turn out to be a great advantage over the iPhone during the pandemic.
  • The Galaxy S21 will feature a larger, faster in-display fingerprint sensor, a leaker claimed last month, sharing specific specs for the new sensor.
  • Qualcomm just announced the new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 in-display fingerprint sensor, which matches the sensor’s specs leaked in December.

In mid-December, a well-known insider said that the Galaxy S21 series would pack an exciting upgrade over last year’s model, which also happens to be a huge advantage over the iPhone 12 during the pandemic. The iPhone 12 features a sophisticated unlocking mechanism that also happens to encrypt the device and secure password-protected apps: Face ID. It’s the same 3D face recognition tech that Apple introduced with the iPhone X in 2017, a feature Android device makers had a hard time copying. And a feature that doesn’t work with face masks.

Samsung never tried to replicate Face ID, going instead in a different direction: an in-display fingerprint sensor. Samsung upgraded the optical sensor with an ultrasonic one in the past few years. The S21 would get its own upgrade, the leaker said last month, an even larger sensor under the display that would be even faster than the previous one. It so happens that Qualcomm just announced that particular technology at CES 2021.

Twitter user Ice Universe said on Twitter that the new Galaxy S21 ultrasonic fingerprint sensor would be 1.77 times larger than the previous one and offer twice the unlocking speed. “You don’t even need to press it, just tap to unlock,” the phone, he said.

Fast forward to mid-January, and Qualcomm has announced the new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 in-display fingerprint sensor that happens to measure 8mm x 8mm for a total surface of 64 square mm. The previous sensor had a surface of 36 square mm. The result is a fingerprint-sensing area that’s 77% bigger than the previous sensor. This is in line with Ice’s leak above.

Qualcomm also said that scanning a fingerprint will be 50% faster. The larger surface and the faster processing will both increase unlock speeds. The estimate also matches the leaker’s remark from December.

In-display Fingerprint Sensor
Qualcomm’s new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 in-display fingerprint sensor. Image source: Qualcomm

As with its previous Sonic Sensor or mobile chip announcements, Qualcomm would not disclose the names of partners ready to use the new technology. The company said that the new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 should be available in “early 2021.” It so happens that Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S21 on Thursday, with the phone set to hit stores a couple of weeks later.

Ice addressed Qualcomm’s announcement in a new tweet that references his December leak, indicating the new 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 will indeed be used in the Galaxy S21. Obviously, we still need confirmation from Samsung, but this rumor is likely accurate. After all, Qualcomm and Samsung did partner before for the same type of in-display fingerprint-sensing technology.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.