September 18, 2020

Huawei thinks all-screen fingerprint unlock is the future

What if your entire phone screen is a giant fingerprint scanner? Huawei has a few ideas on how to use it.

Huawei all screen fingerprint unlock patent

Credit: Supplied by Huawei
  • Huawei has filed a patent for all-screen fingerprint unlock technology.
  • The firm also outlined how it would work and possible use-cases.
  • Vivo previously demonstrated a concept phone with the tech last year though.

All-screen fingerprint unlock tech is perhaps the holy grail for biometric authentication right now, allowing you to tap anywhere on the display to unlock the phone. Now, Huawei has confirmed to Android Authority that it’s filed a patent for the tech in six markets (China, Europe, the US, Japan, Korea and India), and that it’s pending approval.

The Chinese brand has also outlined a few potential use-cases for the technology, such as requiring fingerprint verification for individual app icons (e.g. phone gallery). This idea isn’t new, as we’ve seen OEMs offer app lock functionality for a while now. But it does mean you can theoretically unlock and launch the app in one go rather than tapping the icon and then tapping your existing in-display fingerprint sensor or traditional physical scanner.

Huawei also mentions the ability to quickly enter the SMS app to view and respond to texts without having to unlock the phone first. This could therefore make lockscreen interactions far more streamlined, as merely tapping a lockscreen widget or notification could theoretically unlock the device right away.

Related: How fingerprint scanners work — optical, capacitive, and ultrasonic variants explained

The manufacturer adds that users will have the freedom to “activate sensors in a chosen area on the screen while deactivating the rest on the screen space� in order to reduce power consumption. This sounds like you might be able to disable the sensors in the top third of the screen if you only tend to use the bottom third and middle for authentication, for instance.

Biometrics firm Synaptics reckoned back in 2018 that we’d eventually see all-screen fingerprint unlock enable a state of continuous authentication. That is, the phone is constantly checking to make sure it’s your fingerprint as you use it. There’s no word if this is the route Huawei plans to take too, but it would be a great boost for security if it worked well.

We’ve asked Huawei about commercial availability, costs associated with all-screen fingerprint unlock, and who it’s working with (e.g. Goodix). We’ll update the article if or when they get back to us.

This wouldn’t be the first time we see this tech touted by a brand though, as the Vivo Apex 2019 concept phone had all-screen fingerprint unlock too. So you have to think that any patent filing for the tech by Huawei would face some resistance. Nevertheless, it certainly seems like this is the way forward for biometric authentication.

Next: Can Huawei survive without its custom Kirin chips?