In November 2019 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Samsung and other Android Smartphone OEMs may be Hesitant to use Qualcomm's Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensors in 2020." The first generation was quickly adopted by Samsung and it backfired on them with the financial and securities industry when a serious security flaw with discovered. Fourteen months later and Qualcomm has introduced the second generation of their biometrics technology.
Today at CES 2021, Qualcomm Technologies received an Innovation Award for their 3D Sonic Max, the second-generation 3D Sonic Sensor which is now 77 percent larger than its predecessor. Mobile devices with Qualcomm 3D Sonic Max are expected to be available later this year.
The Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor enables mobile devices to deliver a high-performance fingerprint security solution that lives beneath a smartphone screen’s surface, tapping single-touch authentication that uses sound waves to recognize and safeguard users. The sensor uses pulse echo sound reflections to create an image of the 3D fingerprint ridges and valleys, and is capable of imaging through wet fingers and contaminants.
At a mere 0.2mm, it’s ultra-thin, too. This enables OEMs to build cutting-edge form factors, such as full glass edge-to-edge displays and flexible OLED displays.
According to Qualcomm, the sensor can also process data 50 percent faster than the older one, so it should unlock phones more quickly.
While Apple added Touch ID their latest iPad Air, they chose to apply it to a new button as presented in the photo below.
That doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will choose to go that route for an iPhone as patents have shown an in-display methodology many times like this one and even a combination solution for Touch & Face ID on an iPhone.
As for Apple Watch, Apple won a patent in late December 2020 pointing to the use of a button like the iPad Air as presented below.
It's unknown at present which method Apple may choose to go with for a future iPhone or Apple Watch. Perhaps this will be the year that the mystery is finally put to rest.