Samsung’s Android Pie firmware hints at 3D scanning for upcoming phones

Next year, Samsung is going to hop on the 3D facial scanning bandwagon that has gripped the smartphone industry since Apple introduced Face ID technology with the iPhone X. Some proof of that has shown up in the Android Pie firmware that Samsung has released for the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9. XDA Developers has found code in Samsung’s system app for biometric security that suggests the Korean giant will introduce something called a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor.

Will the 3D scanner make a debut on the Galaxy S10, though?

ToF 3D sensing tech works by measuring the time it takes a pulse of emitted light to be reflected back to the sensor, with this data then used to create a 3D map of an object (a face in this case).┬áNow, you may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned the Galaxy S10 yet. Well, that’s because competing devices like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro have a ToF sensor alongside other components like a flood illuminator, and a notch makes having all those components in there possible. It’s the same for Face ID on iPhones as well.

samsung 3d camera pie tof

The Galaxy S10, meanwhile, is going to come with a corner cutout that fits only the single or dual front camera sensors and has space for nothing else. There was an early rumor that Samsung has been working on integrating 3D sensing functionality into the front camera, though. And since the company has decided to go with small cutouts for all of its new Infinity displays instead of proper notches, having 3D sensing integrated into the front camera(s) may be the only way for it to offer something that can compete with Face ID and other such technologies.

In short, the only thing that can be said for certain at this point is that 3D facial recognition will come to Galaxy smartphones, but whether it will debut with the Galaxy S10 remains to be seen. A Galaxy A smartphone may get that privilege thanks to Samsung’s new strategy of introducing new features to its mid-range lineup before flagships. Only time will tell.

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The Mate 20 Pro doesn’t have a ToF sensor, it has a dot projection system identical to the one Apple uses on the iPhone XS. The phone basically is an iPhone XS Max remix after all. Dot projection blasts the face with thousands of tiny dots to create a detailed 3D map, while ToF is more simple (and slightly less accurate) since it uses a single pulse of light.