Need to unlock your phone in the rain? Your next one might have a fingerprint sensor that can do just that.
New sensors, which Qualcomm unveiled on Wednesday, have an ultrasonic scanner that can read fingerprints through water, a device's screen, and even thin layers of aluminum. That means it could be placed nearly anywhere on the front of the phone, eliminating the need to set aside space for a circular reader like the one on the iPhone 7 and other high-end smartphones.
Qualcomm says that the new reader design works underneath an OLED display up to 1,200 microns deep, an 800-micron glass layer, or a 650-micron aluminium layer. The company's previous fingerprint readers were only able to scan through 400 microns of glass or aluminum.
As for what the new readers will look like on an actual phone, smartphone maker Vivo offered a sneak peak of a prototype at Mobile World Congress Shanghai this week. The prototype has Qualcomm's new sensor fitted beneath the display, according to Engadget. Users can register their prints by holding their fingers over a marked area of the display, and then unlock the phone by touching that same spot.
Qualcomm will make two different versions of the new sensor. The first can scan through displays only, and it will be available to device manufacturers by the fourth quarter of 2017. A separate sensor for scanning through glass and metal will be available this month, and phones incorporating them could go on sale by early next year.
Qualcomm didn't elaborate on the security features of the new sensors, other than to say that they will offer "enhanced security authentication." Previous sensors have been relatively easy to hack, including with copies of a fingerprint printed out on paper.