The Google Pixel 9 could finally fix a flaw that’s been bugging us for years

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Google’s upcoming Pixel 9 series is slated to receive a much-needed upgrade: a better fingerprint scanner. 

According to a source familiar with the matter, Android Authority reports the smartphone line will sport the Qualcomm 3D Sonic Gen 2 ultrasonic fingerprint scanner at launch. That’s the same component powering fingerprint unlocking and authentication on  Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra.

To understand how big of an upgrade this is, you first need to understand the current situation on Pixel smartphones. To put it lightly, users do not like the optical fingerprint scanner inside Google’s hardware. You can find Reddit threads going back several years, with people consistently complaining about the feature’s poor performance. One person called it “useless,” while another wondered if something was wrong with their fingers.

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Android Authority explains that optical scanners are just not very good. They’re slow, often inaccurate, and are sensitive to moisture and dirt. Dirty fingerprints can mess with the sensor. Plus, the tech doesn’t do well in low-light environments.

“Optical scanners require the screen to flash a very bright light,” according to the publication. If you don’t completely cover up the “circle on the screen,” you just get hit with a blinding light. It’s part of why many smartphone manufacturers have moved past optical sensors.

Ultrasonic improvements

Ultrasonic scanners, on the other hand, are much better. True to their name, the tech operates by “sending pulses of ultrasonic sound waves from the transducer to your finger.” This allows the hardware to capture the echo as they bounce off, allowing the sensor to be faster and more reliable than the old tech. 

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Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Gen 2 adds its own twist by creating a “deeply accurate image” of a person’s fingerprints, pores, and all. It highlights all of the unique characteristics found on a user’s prints, making the technology more secure than optical scanners. 3D Sonic even offers “high-performance across a wide range of operating conditions.” It doesn’t matter if your fingers are dry or wet or have some schmutz. The ultrasonic scanner works no matter what.

The report claims that every Pixel 9 variant will have the new component except for the upcoming Pixel Fold 2. It’ll keep the sensor on the power button. 

Google is scheduled to hold an event on August 13, during which we expect to see a smorgasbord of Pixel devices from smartphones to smartwatches, maybe a new pair of Pixel Buds. We highly recommend staying tuned to coverage when the big arrives.

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Until then, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best Pixel phones for 2024.

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