Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, announced at CES 2016 today that his company has partnered with Chinese tech company Letv for the forthcoming Le Max Pro smartphone.
First off, the Le Max Pro will be the first phone to use the company’s high-powered Snapdragon 820 chip — a chip that’s arguably comparable in power to that of the Apple iPad Pro tablet.
The really cool part, though, comes in the form of the Le Max Pro’s Qualcomm-powered Snapdragon Sense fingerprint scanner.
“This is the first ultrasonic fingerprint sensor,” Mollenkopf says.
While Mollenkopf acknowledges that smartphones have had fingerprint scanners for a while — most famously, the Touch ID system in recent-model Apple iPhones and iPads — he says that this one solves a bunch of problems.
First and foremost, the fact that the Qualcomm touch sensor is ultrasonic means that you can use it even if your finger is wet, or even if it’s swiping across the fingerprint sensor. That solves a big annoyance with current solutions.
Second, making it ultrasonic means that the fingerprint sensor can be anywhere on future devices. It doesn’t even have to be on the surface of the phone: In the case of the Letv Le Max Pro, it’s “protected by metal.”
So while Android phones historically have a spotty track record with fingerprint sensors, it seems that Qualcomm has a strong technology in place for making them much better going forward.