[Poll results out] Opinion: Google Pixel 8 ultrasonic fingerprint sensor may come at a cost - but is it necessary?

New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…

Original story (published on Nov. 14, 2022) follows:

The Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are some great devices. When at their best, you’re guaranteed snappy performance and fantastic photos. But like any other, these phones aren’t perfect.

Google stuck with an in-display fingerprint scanner. But here’s the problem: the Pixel 6 fingerprint scanner was slow with poor recognition, something that may have slipped through to the Pixel 7 family.

The slow unlock speeds and poor recognition issues that clouded the Pixel 6 series have been reported by a section of Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro owners.

Google-Pixel-7-fingerprint-sensor

While the scanner may at times work just fine, it can be quite slow at recognizing the owner’s finger. In some cases, it just won’t work. But in worst cases, it may even recognize unregistered fingerprints.

At this point it became less of a performance concern and more of a security problem for Pixel 6 owners. It could have been software-related, but the issues have since persisted across multiple software builds.

This arguably boils down to the less sophisticated hardware or rather the less secure nature of optical sensors compared to ultrasonic fingerprint sensors.

Samsung Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 series, for instance, make use of a more secure ultrasonic fingerprint scanner that also guarantees faster and more reliable performance.

Samsung-Galaxy-S22

Where optical sensors capture a 2D image of your fingerprint and match against the database to unlock your phone, ultrasonic sensors capture a 3D image of your fingerprint, making it harder to spoof.

Since optical sensors may fail to differentiate between a real finger and an image of a finger, it has been proven easy to fool them and gain access to someone’s device.

But Google has in the past claimed that its version of the optical scanner has ‘enhanced security algorithms’ aimed to make it harder to spoof.

The Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor utilizes enhanced security algorithms. In some instances, these added protections can take longer to verify or require more direct contact with the sensor.
Source

Since Google never delved deeper into these supposed ‘enhanced security algorithms’, it’s hard to tell how best optical scanners’ disadvantages over ultrasonic sensors were addressed in Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 phones.

However, the good news is that you may not have to deal with slow recognition and less secure optical fingerprint scanners on Pixel phones for too long. At least going by recent reports about the Google Pixel 8 Pro.

Google-Pixel-7-Pro

An exclusive report by 91Mobiles claims Google may finally ditch the optical fingerprint scanner used in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series in favor of an ultrasonic sensor for its next flagship phones.

While this is just a rumor at this point, it would be a welcome choice owing to the many fingerprint-related issues the Pixel 6 and even Pixel 7 have had in recent times.

In fact, this should come as huge news for any current Pixel owner who has been waiting patiently for Google to ditch the often-faulty optical fingerprint scanner.

No doubt the Pixel 7 pair’s fingerprint scanner is significantly ahead of the slow and unreliable scanner on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Still, it’s no match for the ultra-fast scanner on the aging Galaxy S21 Ultra, for instance.

Ultrasonic-Google-Pixel-8
(Source)

But with a shift from the sluggish and unsecure optical sensors, the Pixel 8 Pro may stand a chance of taking on the big boys from Samsung that are often in the same price bracket.

Whether the smaller Pixel 8 will also go for the speedy ultrasonic sensor like its Pro sibling remains unclear. But if we consult history, the two should share the same fingerprint scanner.

However, this change may likely come at the expense of what has been one of the best things about the Pixel series in recent times – affordability.

Both Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 launch prices started at $599. Given what they bring to the table, these are arguably the best priced smartphones you can buy. It gets even better when you throw in the discounted Black Friday deals.

Pixel-7-black-friday-2022-offer

Sure, the Pro models may be a little pricier at $900 by their hardware standards, but with better hardware (including an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor), such a price tag may just be justifiable.

But for the standard Pixel 8, having an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on board alongside other hardware improvements such up to 12GB RAM might just disrupt what has been a sweet spot (in terms of price) for most people.

Since the 3D scanning technology in ultrasonic sensors translates to extra production costs, Google will likely pass on some of it to the end user, hence potentially hiking the price tag of the phone.

Qualcomm-3D-sensor
Click/tap to view (Source)

Whether potential Pixel 8 buyers will see an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner as a necessary addition remains to be seen. But given the advantages over its counterpart, perhaps a minor price hike might just be justifiable after all.

Do let us know what you think in the comments section. As for the Twitter poll below, results will be shared after a week.

Update (Nov. 21, 2022)

From the results, it seems 66.7% of our readers wouldn’t pay extra just for a better scanner on the Pixel 8, while the remaining 33.3% won’t mind spending a little extra for a superior sensor.

Featured image: Qualcomm

PiunikaWeb started as purely an investigative tech journalism website with main focus on ‘breaking’ or ‘exclusive’ news. In no time, our stories got picked up by the likes of Forbes, Foxnews, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Macrumors, and many others. Want to know more about us? Head here.

Want to work for PiunikaWeb and enjoy best-in-industry compensation & benefits? You'll be glad to know we're hiring experienced candidates.

Hillary Keverenge

Review Editor. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.