For users that have too many passwords or forget them all the time, fingerprint identification technology is an answer to their prayers. But security of devices such as smartphones and applications such as mobile payments are where fingerprint sensing technology will really shine, according to a recent report Fingerprint Sensors Market in Smart Mobile Devices 2012-2019 .
Fully half of all smartphones shipped will be equipped with fingerprint sensors by 2019, said the report. With more than 10 billion smartphones and tablets expected to ship during the next five years, the related component volumes will soar. Fingerprint sensors are expected to join the ubiquitous smartphone sensors, but market penetration will vary by device.
With the introduction of Apple Pay in 2014, mobile payment is going to be a primary driver for fingerprint sensors. The volumes are expected to be significant and attract both start-up and established telecom players to cater to this new market. Most of Apple's competitors have reacted quickly to match Apple's mobile payment lead in the market.
Samsung has recently unveiled its payment service coupled with a touch fingerprint sensor. And, other smart device vendors are expected to introduce similar features to their devices in the coming years.
According to IHS, Apple and Samsung will drive the value of the fingerprint sensor market fourfold to over $1.7 billion by 2020. “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.”
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.”