The release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 sparked something positive – iris scanning. ABI Research forecasts global shipments of smartphones equipped with iris scanners will reach almost 300 million in 2021.
“As the iris is an unchanging, protected, and completely unique feature of the human body, smartphone vendors are gradually incorporating iris scanning capabilities into their products as a secure biometric identification solution to unlock devices or certify mobile payments,” says Marina Lu, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “We find that users are still wary to rely on mobile payments due to security concerns, but iris scanning will help drive future mobile payment adoption.”
Iris scanning requires no physical contact, which makes authentication more seamless than other methods, like entering PIN numbers and scanning fingerprints. Iris sensors in mobile devices include a camera chip and an IRED for illumination of the eyes so that the sensors can detect iris features even in semi-dark conditions. The sensor can function as a separate unit from the front camera.
Japanese company Fujitsu was the first to announce iris scanning for smartphones in March 2015. Following that, Microsoft introduced its Lumia 950 and 950 XL, ZTE released the Nubia Prague S, and HP launched Elite x3, all with iris scanning.
Other smartphone vendors are watching the market response to iris scanning and are likely to follow Samsung to adopt iris scanning technologies. However, Apple chose not to add iris scanning to its latest release of smartphone, the iPhone 7, and so it is likely to be at least another year before the technology finds its way onto Apple devices.
“At the moment, iris scanning is complementary to the more mature fingerprint scanning,” concludes Lu. “However, we expect iris scanning to gain more popularity due to its higher stability and less susceptibility to external damage. Though iris scanning is geared toward high-end models now, we predict that it will be available in less expensive smartphones in the long run.”