Synaptics Natural ID fingerprint scanner works under glass phone displays

Hardware buttons that double as authentication devices take up space that limits the size of a display; with Natural ID, the display is the fingerprint scanner.

Could we finally be rid of fingerprint scanner buttons on phones next year? Perhaps, thanks to Synaptics.

The company announced on Tuesday that it is demonstrating its Natural ID fingerprint tech that can work through the glass display of a handset or tablet.

This is actually a second generation product for Synaptics; it currently has an authentication method for glass applications. The difference is that the new Natural ID solution works through glass that's twice as thick as the prior version.

That's not to say it will work with all displays because it still requires a thin sheet of glass: 200 micrometers or thinner; the prior version needed glass that was half as thick.

It's possible that Apple considers a button-free Touch ID implementation in future iPhones and iPads but the more likely scenario is for Android devices. That's because iOS relies heavily on its hardware home button not just for Touch ID but also for activating Siri and for bringing up all running applications.

Indeed, this could be the second product from Synaptics that we see used for Android devices in 2016.

Last month, Synaptics debuted a touch controller that adds "ClearForce variable force sensing." If Google, or its hardware partners, add software support in Android for that controller, devices could gain features similar to Apple's 3D Touch for pressure sensitive menus and actions.

Synaptics is demonstrating Natural ID today at its annual analyst and investor meeting, as well as at January's Consumer Electronics Show. If any hardware makers bite on the new product, the company says it will be mass producing Natural ID authentication modules in the first quarter of next year.