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Sonic fingerprint sensor: Qualcomm is Going to Compete iPhone in 2019

Qualcomm in Hawaii presenting its Snapdragon Technology. The conference was focused on new processors for smart phones. Our Xataka colleagues attended and told us the most interesting news. Among them are two very interesting technologies that will face the iPhone in 2019: the 5G connection and the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the screen.

The Snapdragon 855 is the successor of the processor that all the high-end smartphones have mounted this year, the Snapdragon 845. Performance and efficiency improvements aside, this new chip from Qualcomm brings other innovations:

Manufacturing process of 7 nanometers, the same as Apple’s A12 Bionic, also manufactured by TSMC.
Dedicated NPU to improve the photography and video taken with the device, similar to the neural motor of the iPhone although this one is used in many more tasks.

X50 modem for 5G connectivity up to 5GBps and another X24 modem for 4G connection up to 2GBps.
Support for ultrasonic fingerprint sensor below the terminal screen as a secure unlocking method.

All in all, Qualcomm has not gone too far into technical details or specifications. Where he has dedicated more time has been in the last two points. The 5G not only promises superior bandwidth, but also a substantial reduction in latency in wireless communications. The internet of things and smart cities is mentioned as cases of use of this technology. Taken to smartphones, the most obvious is the streaming of content and online video games.

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As for the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, Qualcomm has also delved a bit more than in the other features. According to the company, it is a more precise and safe system than that usually used on the screen by other manufacturers. Instead of taking an image, the sensor makes a 3D mold of the fingerprint with all its grooves and pores. Although Qualcomm has not shown any functional sensor model in its conference.

For these and other developments we will have to wait until the first half of 2019, when we will see the first high-end smartphone with the Snapdragon 855 inside. One of the candidates to receive it is the Samsung Galaxy S10, scheduled for March-April of next year.

What does this mean for the iPhone

The networks that allow 5G connectivity are beginning to be deployed all over the world. The governments have begun to auction the corresponding licenses to the operators. Despite this, progress is slow. In Spain tests are being carried out in some points but its commercial use is not expected until 2020. Other countries have a slightly faster pace, with 2019 as the date of release to the public.

For that reason, it is not strange that the rumors about an iPhone 5G place it from 2020. Apple takes its time when adopting new standards of cellular connectivity. This can be seen on two other occasions:

The original iPhone only had EDGE and non-3G connectivity, something that changed with the next model in 2008.
The LTE or 4G connection landed on the iPhone 5, much later than other competitors.

The reduction of the latency of 5G is a very attractive point for iOS online games, but it is something that the vast majority of users can not benefit for a couple of years. As for the fingerprint sensor integrated into the screen, the story is very different.

After the introduction of Touch ID with the iPhone 5s in 2013, the improvement of the overall experience of the iPhone needed to do without the Home button. This would allow to increase the screen and reduce the frames of the iPhone but, how to get it? By two ways: placing the fingerprint sensor inside the screen or using a sophisticated facial recognition system.

As we know, Apple chose the second method long before it saw the light in the form of the Face ID of the iPhone X. But that does not mean that it did not investigate the first of them. In fact, they investigated it thoroughly and registered numerous patents (here and here, among others). Clearly, Apple decided that Face ID was a superior option and opted for it.

iPhone XR, analysis: the parallel balance

At the time we saw how Face ID took a year and a half advantage to iPhone competitors. At least. Now we know that the rest of manufacturers have not yet developed a system that is up or exceeds it. And seen the presentation of Qualcomm (we still have to know its real speed), it is probably still far. Or that even manufacturers prefer to opt for the on-screen sonic sensor instead of advanced facial recognition.

Therefore, Apple can be calm on both fronts. In an ideal world in which the expansion of the 5G was instantaneous it would be relevant the absence of a compatible modem on the iPhone. And Face ID opens a series of very interesting possibilities around it.

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