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© bellemedia dreamstime.com Analysis | October 15, 2014

Apple and Samsung to drive fingerprint sensor market growth

Apple and Samsung will drive the value of the fingerprint sensor market fourfold to over $1.7 billion by 2020 according to IHS.
“Fingerprint sensors have arrived in force and we are forecasting that shipments of fingerprint enabled handsets and tablets will reach 1.4 billion units by 2020,” Marwan Boustany, senior analyst at IHS Technology for MEMS and sensors, said. “This is more than quadruple the 317 million units expected to be shipped by the end of 2014.”

Samsung to follow Apple’s fingerprint focus

There is a consensus among handset, tablet and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that the touch type fingerprint sensor is the most user friendly approach, and this will dominate in the high end category of smartphones.

Touch sensors started off as the dominant form factor for fingerprint sensors thanks to Apple’s iPhone 5S. While Samsung has yet to release a phone with a touch type fingerprint sensor, IHS believes that this will change in 2015.

The challenge for Samsung is to find a smaller rectangular sensor for its home button, and this is a product that companies such as Fingerprint Cards AB with its FPC1150 and IDEX with its own upcoming product will hope to capture. Although it may be that Samsung will wait for its current supplier Synaptics to offer this part before it adopts it.

Swipe sensors ideal to reach lower range of smartphone market

Swipe sensors, as found in a range of handsets including the Galaxy S5, are small and inexpensive relative to touch sensors. They were the only real option for handsets outside of Apple until 2014. “This form factor’s cost is ideal for reaching the lower range and lower mid-range of the smartphone market, it is, however, less convenient to use,” Boustany said.

Touchscreens adds desired flexibility for phablets

Touchscreen based fingerprint sensors are currently under development by a range of companies with touchscreen controller experience, including Samsung’s current supplier Synaptics. This type of solution may come with some compromises from the perspective of ergonomics and could have challenges from the perspective of performance, but it would be a desirable solution for phablet suppliers as it adds flexibility for finger positioning and eliminates an extra package. IHS sees some volume of this solution reaching the market by early 2017 at the latest.

The fingerprint sensors market is beginning to take hold outside of Apple

Where Apple leads, others will follow. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the first of its handsets after the iPhone 5S to incorporate a fingerprint sensor from Synaptics. Fingerprint sensors are setting the stage for mobile payments. There has been broad support from major companies such as Visa, MasterCard, PayPal as well as banks to support mobile payments in Europe, North America and Asia. This has been helped by Apple, Samsung and the FIDO Alliance.

“This biometric market has all the requirements for success converging at the right time,” Boustany said. “Technology, convenience, and consumer interest are just some of the converging interests ensuring the success of fingerprint sensors.”

Apple sets the way

The range of use cases for fingerprint sensors and the user demand for such a sensor has a lot to thank Apple. It has, independently of the FIDO Alliance, worked to lay the framework for on device authentication (unlocking phones), website log in (iCloud Keychain) and payments, all authenticated using its fingerprint sensor. “Other OEMs will definitely benefit from this, and this is one of the trends that will support greater adoption of fingerprint sensors in China also,” Marwan said.

China: The next breeding ground for fingerprint sensors

China and Asia generally have been areas with intense interest in fingerprint sensors, with Korean Pantech, Japanese Fujitsu and a range of smaller Chinese OEMs like Elephone and Vifocal adopting fingerprint sensors in the wake of the iPhone 5S. In China, fingerprint sensors have already reached the low end and mid-range smartphone segment, giving an indication of the wide potential for these sensors.

More recently, Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 was announced at IFA this year and it incorporates a touch fingerprint sensor from Fingerprint Cards AB, specifically the FPC1020. This is the first large volume touch fingerprint sensor for smartphones outside of Apple, beating Samsung to this easier to use implementation.

Huawei will not be alone though as other OEMs seek to use touch fingerprint sensors in the near future, including ZTE and other popular Chinese OEMs.

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October 16 2017 2:56 PM V8.8.6-2