Forget the Fold: Biometrics and Ultrasound Technologies Are Better Bets for Full-Display Smartphones

30 Apr 2019

In the vigorous pursuit of full-display smartphones, vendors are either increasing screen-to-body size ratios or offering a foldable or flexible screen.  However, considering the recent debacle with foldable screens, full-display smartphones will initially be best realized through improved biometric technologies, ultrasound, and gesture control. ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies, forecasted that camera-based recognition will be a dominant smartphone biometric technology, reaching 487 million shipments in 2023, followed by in-display fingerprint scanners with nearly 228 shipments in 2023.

“Many of these technologies allow vendors to develop smartphones with larger overall screen sizes by reducing the need for sensors, buttons, and other features on the front screen,” said Stephanie Tomsett, a Research Analyst at ABI Research. “They allow devices to have minimal bezels, thereby creating a relatively smaller form factor for an increase in display size, which can also be achieved, eventually, through the use of foldable screens.”

With many new interfaces developing, the use of in-display fingerprint scanners removes the need for an additional sensor or button on the front of the device, putting the technology behind the screen. Camera notches and punch-holes, such as Samsung’s O, U, and V Infinity Displays, also add to the increase in screen real estate on the front of the device, while sound technologies such as LG’s Crystal Sound OLED use the display as a speaker, removing the need to house speakers on the front of the device. The use of ultrasound gesture control technologies does not require additional sensors to be on the front of the device.

Vendors are keen to develop new technologies and ways in which to increase the smartphone screen-to-body size ratio, driving toward designs with complete glass front displays while keeping form factor size to a minimum. As this next wave of innovation approaches, the market is braced to provide more immersive experiences based on touch and touch-less UI experiences. Rumors suggest that Apple is working toward creating a smartphone with no holes, speakers, or grilles, utilizing many of these technologies, which is similar in concept to a device that Meizu has developed. There will be a requirement for significant investment in these underpinning technologies, and many companies have patents in place that will further aid this push toward a full front, immersive screen experience. Apple has a patent for an iPhone that allows the screen to be a speaker, Samsung has a patent for a smartphone that allows the screen to be a camera, and LG has a patent for a smartphone outlining a full screen, all display device. However, with any number of options, including foldable displays, open to vendors, there is some debate as to how these options can be used in tandem, and whether some will be become obsolete due to their lack of utility, excessive added costs, or delivery of poor user experiences.

“Vendors looking to develop bezel-less screens need to be aware of the issues and challenges surrounding the technology. In particular, the bezels help to provide protection for the sides of the smartphone, so alternative methods of protection need to be found. They also prevent accidental interaction with the side of the screen, so responsiveness technologies need to be explored to ensure that consumers do not become frustrated with unwanted interactions,” concluded Tomsett.

These findings are from ABI Research’s New Smartphone, Tablet, and Wearable Form Factors and Technologies application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Smartphones and Wearables research service, which includes research, data, and executive foresights. Based on extensive primary interviews, application analysis reports present in-depth analyses of key market trends and factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual market or geography.


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ABI Research provides strategic guidance for visionaries needing market foresight on the most compelling transformative technologies, which reshape workforces, identify holes in a market, create new business models, and drive new revenue streams. ABI Research’s own research visionaries take stances on those technologies early, publishing groundbreaking studies often years ahead of other technology advisory firms. ABI Research’s analysts deliver their conclusions and recommendations in easily and quickly absorbed formats to ensure proper context. Our analysts strategically guide visionaries to take action now and inspire their businesses to realize a bigger picture. For more information about subscribing to ABI’s Research Services as well as Industrial and Custom Solutions, visionaries can contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific, or visit


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