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Surprise! Galaxy S9 Might Have a Virtual Fingerprint Sensor

Samsung's Galaxy S9 is rumored to be shipping with a physical fingerprint sensor. But a new report suggests it could deliver a virtual sensor under its screen.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Synaptics on Tuesday (Dec. 12) announced that it's developed an in-display fingerprint sensor for smartphones. Better yet, it said that it's currently starting mass production on the technology with a "top five OEM." In other words, one of the top five smartphone makers in the world is secretly working with Synaptics on an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

So, why Samsung? Synaptics, whose announcement was earlier discovered by BGR, actually dropped some hints. In one line of its press release, Synaptics said that its Clear ID technology has been "designed for smartphones with infinity displays." Infinity Display is the term Samsung uses for its display on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 and has actually been trademarked by the company, so no other vendors can use it.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S9 Rumors: Everything You Need to Know

Synaptics went on to say that the smartphone maker it's partnering with has developed "button-free, bezel-free infinity displays." That sounds an awful lot like Samsung's handsets, which come with curved displays.

According to Synaptics, its Clear ID uses optical in-display fingerprint-sensing technology and only activates when it's needed. The company also claims that Clear ID is faster than other biometric technologies, including 3D face scanners.

Synaptics said that its sensor can be completely covered in glass and will be able to determine a fingerprint from wet, dry, and cold fingers. It'll also work at a variety of angles and is more secure than other, physical sensors.

The big question, though, is when and on what device the Clear ID technology might launch. Synaptics isn't saying anything for now, and the company would only say that at CES, it'll deliver a "live demonstration" of the technology on an as-yet announced "Tier 1 customer phone." 

However, Samsung reportedly won't be showing the Galaxy S9 at CES in January, which leaves the door open for another flagship. Perhaps it could be LG and it's rumored LG G7?

Don Reisinger is a communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter who has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times, as well as Tom's Guide.