The Korean giant has filed a patent with KIPRIS, South Korea’s patent and trademark organization, for a technology that would allow it to bundle a fingerprint sensor on the front of future smartphones. The sensor would allow Samsung to create a small recess in the Galaxy S9’s display and bezel area that would house a speedy and exceedingly small fingerprint reader, according to SamMobile, which earlier discovered the patent.
The sole existence of the patent doesn’t guarantee it will ever be commercialized, let alone that it will find its way to the Galaxy S9 lineup specifically, but any technology Samsung uses in its upcoming Android flagship series will have to be patented prior to launching early next year.
The newly uncovered patent was just made public on Monday after Samsung initially submitted it for review in April 2016.
The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus have been the subjects of numerous rumors and reports in recent months, with some insiders claiming that neither device will have an on-screen fingerprint scanner that Samsung has been developing for several years now but still isn’t capable of commercializing due to a number of technological limitations and yield rates that are supposedly deemed too low for reliable flow production.
The fingerprint reader placement has been one of the rare complaints consumers and reviewers had about the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, with the Galaxy Note 8 introducing more space between the rear-mounted sensor and its dual-camera setup but still not debuting any radical redesigns.
With recent reports suggesting that Samsung won’t be able to mass-produce any handsets with optical fingerprint sensors before the Galaxy Note 9 is set to hit the market, it’s possible that the company is trying to do what it can to reposition the scanner on the Galaxy S9-series devices despite the technological constraints it’s presently said to be facing.
While the solution would not be as elegant as an on-screen fingerprint reader, it could serve as a stop-gap between rear-mounted sensors and optical ones that Samsung is hoping to deliver in the second half of 2018.
Earlier Samsung has said that it’s working on getting a virtual sensor to work, but there’s also talk that the company might scrap the fingerprint sensor entirely and work on getting a higher-end 3D face scanner working. That would put the Galaxy S9 in direct competition with Apple’s iPhone X and its Face ID unlocking technology. The move might ultimately make the smartphone fingerprint sensor obsolete.
But before we get too far afield with the possibility of the Galaxy S9 coming with a small, embedded sensor, it’s worth noting that Samsung, like other companies, files for patents all the time. And although it might have considered the technology, there’s no telling whether it might actually find its way to a future device. Samsung, after all, is still considering a virtual sensor.