Touchy Subject: A Fingerprint Scanner Comparison

Fingerprint Scanner Comparison

The human body is genetically wired to be a password. You really are unique: from the structure of your fingerprint, toes, lips, tongue, and retina right down to your tooth/bone structure and DNA. A number PIN or pattern might be relatively easy to duplicate or replicate but when it comes to biology, there’s quite literally nobody like you.

Smartphones, lately, have started utilizing these key biological differences among every member of the species. Manufacturers make your private data invulnerable to malware and hack attacks when their password is biometric.

Over the past five years, fingerprint scanners have become a regular on the smartphone spec-sheet. Right from the first days of the obscure Motorola Atrix in 2011 and the big commercial launch in the form of Apple iPhone 5S Touch ID to the ultrasonic technology embedded inside the phone display, fingerprint scanners have come a long way.


Biometrics are no longer restricted to high-end devices: even budget devices boast of fingerprint scanning capabilities. They’re not only cheaper but faster and more secure.

What are the differences in the fingerprint scanners currently on the market and which one is right for you?

Security at the Tip of Your Fingers

Fingerprinting is the most popular way to authenticate the identity of individuals. Used as far back as 700 AD China, there’s no print in history that matches another, not even those of the closest identical twins.

Ancient fingerprint

The process typically involves taking a scan of the tip of a finger, mapping its distinguishable features and creating a digital template of it for later use.

Several forms of devices have been devised for this purpose with varying levels of accuracy and security, all of which are incomparably high compared to traditional pins or passwords.

Optical Sensors

optical sensors

Optical scanners are the older, most common form of sensors. This set-up utilizes an LED behind a touch surface to identify the dark and light parts of your fingertip and create an optical map, an image, of the ridges.

Using CCD and CMOS sensors, this scanner is basically a camera that is sensitive to extremely low light. It compares a prerecorded picture to a current image and determines whether or not it is secure.

Since this phenomenon is strictly optical, it can adversely be affected by external light, oil, dirt, grime, water, frost, scratches, and nicks on the scanning surface.

Although these older scanners fell out of use for a while, they’re now making a comeback in the form of in-display scanners that work under a thin layer of glass.

Here are some phones that use Optical Fingerprint Scanners-

  • Oppo F11
  • Vivo Nex
  • One Plus 6T

Capacitive Sensors

capacitive fingerprint scan

Capacitive scan fingerprinting utilizes electrical current rather than light in its sensor. The process makes use of an array of capacitors to create a map of the ridges and valleys that compose a fingerprint. This Is because human skin is also conductive.

These capacitive sensors are able to gauge the smallest differences in conductivity that are caused by the distance between the capacitive plate, ridges, and valleys.

Capacitive fingerprint scanners can resist contamination issues better than some optical scanners. They aren’t affected by ambient conditions and cannot be fooled by an image however a 1-to-1 mold might do the trick.

Here are some phones that use Capacitive Fingerprint Scanners-

  • Apple Iphone 6
  • Nexus 6P


Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors

The latest tech to enter the space, Ultrasonic sensors made their debut in the Le Max Pro using the innovation from Qualcomm and their breakthrough Sense ID technology.

Consisting of both an ultrasonic transmitter and a receiver, a pulse is transmitted towards the finger placed over the scanner. While a part of this pulse is absorbed, the rest of it is bounced back to the sensor, gauging the ridges, pores et cetera that are unique.

Scanning over time allows the collection of additional depth data, resulting in a highly detailed 3D reproduction of the scanned finger. The 3 Dimensional nature of this tech makes it extremely secure.

Qualcomm announced their in-display rendition of this tech at the end of 2018 which has now enabled the widespread release of fullscreen smartphones along with motorized cameras.

These scanners are easy to work with. However, using an obstructive screen protector might cause some hiccups.

Here are some phones that use Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanners-

  • Samsung S10
  • One Plus 7

Fingerprinting, Facial Scanning, and Biometrics are slowly becoming the next frontier of identification over passwords, pins, and pictures. Moving forward, their integration into our daily activities might become increasingly common.

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