Before the iPhone X launch, the smartphone industry was obsessed with under-display fingerprint scanners. However, post the launch of the handset, Android OEMs and vendors have now shifted their interest to 3D camera sensor for facial recognition purposes.
The claims have been made by KGI securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in his latest note. He had previously claimed that Android OEMs would end up taking at least 2.5 years to catch up to Apple’s TrueDepth camera system. Apart from facial recognition, 3D front facing cameras can also be used to offer more features as used by Apple for Animoji, Portrait mode, improved security, and more.
While under-display optical fingerprint recognition is only a spec upgrade from capacitive solutions, 3D sensing embodies a revolutionary user experience and warrants a premium on gross margin. 3D sensing not only enables facial recognition in security applications and allows users to create fun expressions like Apple’s Animoji, on a more important level, it is a key factor in the development of AR. We therefore believe brand vendors are willing to spend more for related components.
As things stand right now, Qualcomm-Himax, Orbbec, and Mantis Vision are offering 3D sensing front-facing camera solutions, but the one from Qualcomm-Himax is the best of the lot and attracting the most attention. The analyst believes that over the next three years, Android smartphones with 3D sensor will outsell smartphones with an under-display fingerprint sensor by 2-3x times. This is primarily because 3D sensors are also compatible with LCD displays, while the under-display fingerprint scanner requires an OLED panel to work. The lack of additional OLED suppliers other than Samsung in the market will also hamper the adoption of under-display fingerprint scanners.
Apple was reportedly in a race against time to get under-display fingerprint scanners ready in time for the iPhone X launch. However, due to yield issues with some key components, the company had to drop its plan as it only went with Face ID on the X. Touch ID in the form of under-display fingerprint scanner is expected to make a return on the 2018 OLED iPhone though.