London, UK – The fingerprint sensor market is forecast to grow fourfold by 2020, reaching more than $1.7 billion, thanks in part to Apple and Samsung, reports IHS Inc. As the fingerprint sensor market starts to take hold outside of Apple, it will drive big opportunities for players in the market, according to a new report from the market research firm.
“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,” said Marwan Boustany, senior analyst at IHS Technology for MEMS and sensors, in a statement. “This is more than quadruple the 317 million units expected to be shipped by the end of 2014.”
The IHS report, 2014 Fingerprint Sensors - Handsets and Tablets, also finds that Asia, particularly China, will be the next big market for fingerprint sensors, which have already reached low-end and mid-range smartphone designs in China. These include smaller Chinese OEMs such as Elephone and Vifocal as well as Korean Pantech and Japanese Fujitsu, said IHS. The report also reveals a consensus among handset, tablet and other OEMs that the touch-type fingerprint sensor will dominate in the high-end smartphone market.
One of the most recent introductions is Huawei’s Ascent Mate 7, which incorporates the FPC1020 fingerprint sensor from Fingerprint Cards AB. Boustany said this is the first large volume touch fingerprint sensor for smartphones outside of Apple, beating Samsung to the market. He expects other OEMs including ZTE and other popular Chinese OEMs to incorporate touch fingerprint sensors in the near future.
Apple’s iPhone 5S is the main driver behind the touch sensor’s dominance in the market today; however, IHS expects Samsung to have a phone with a touch-type fingerprint sensor next year. Samsung’s challenge is finding a smaller rectangular sensor for its home button, according to the market research firm. Potential suppliers include Fingerprint Cards AB with its FPC1150 and IDEX’s upcoming product. However, Boustany believes that Samsung may wait for its current supplier Synaptics to offer the part before it adopts it.
The FPC1150 touch sensor is touted as the industry’s first touch fingerprint sensor designed specifically as a home button on the front side of an Android smartphone or tablet. It offers several benefits over the previous version including improvements in power consumption and user flexibility. It allows 360-degree rotation and offers ultra-low-power consumption at less than 5 mA. The 3D pixel sensing technology can read virtually any finger, wet or dry, and is capable of more than 10 million finger placements.
Swipe sensors are still the most suited for the low-end smartphone market because they are small and inexpensive, said IHS. These sensors are found in a range of handsets including the Galaxy S5, which is the first of Samsung’s handsets to incorporate a fingerprint sensor after the iPhone 5S. “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 stated.
Earlier this year, IHS reported that the S5 incorporates a lot more sensors than previous designs. In addition to an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, the S5 features a barometric pressure sensor, and fingerprint and pulse sensors. Sensor manufacturers include Maxim, InvenSense, Asahi Kasei Microelectronics, and STMicroelectronics.
For phablets, touchscreen-based fingerprint sensors are under development by several companies, including Synaptics, according to Boustany. IHS expects some volume production reaching the market by early 2017 at the latest. “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.”
Fingerprint sensors are setting the stage for mobile payments with broad support from major companies such as Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal to support mobile payments in Europe, North America and Asia, which has been helped by Apple, Samsung, and the FIDO Alliance, according to Boustany. “This biometric market has all the requirements for success converging at the right time,” he stated. “Technology, convenience, and consumer interest are just some of the converging interests ensuring the success of fingerprint sensors.”