So far, I really like the Samsung Galaxy S20. I love its rich, vibrant, and buttery smooth 120Hz display. I love its excellent performance thanks to the new Snapdragon 865 chip. I love how quickly it charges, its more modest size compared to the S20+ and Ultra, and I love the improved haptic feedback experience. It's a good phone! Unfortunately, it still has one of the worst features of its predecessor: Qualcomm's utlrasonic fingerprint scanner.
When I first heard the Galaxy S20 would inherit the same fingerprint scanner (literally, it's the same exact part), I was hesitant. The Galaxy S10 series was marred by this scanner, so much that Samsung tried multiple times to "fix" it with various patches. None of them appreciably improved the performance of the scanner, and Samsung took its licks from reviewers and customers alike. It certainly didn't ruin the phones, but it was a black eye Samsung really didn't need, especially given most of its competitors (like OnePlus) ended up using more reliable optical scanners.
After a few days with the Galaxy S20, I am sad to report that the experience is essentially unchanged from the Galaxy S10. When the fingerprint scanner works, it works. But frequently, it doesn't. I had an app actually lock me out of additional scanning attempts this morning despite trying my right thumb at about every possible angle (and yes, both thumbs are enrolled twice). After years of fast, reliable capacitive fingerprint scanners, Qualcomm's ultrasonic technology feels like a regression in every meaningful metric. It's just not good.
I also understand that some people think the ultrasonic scanner is "fine," but with all due respect, no phones enjoy the level of complaints Samsung's do when it comes to fingerprint scanner problems. The threads are essentially never-ending for the S10 and Note10 families, such that even I was surprised just how many I was able to find with even the most cursory of Googling. To suggest that Samsung's ultrasonic scanner is just as good as anybody else's optical scanner is not an argument that can be made in good faith—it is simply wrong.
Initially, I was hopeful that Samsung's faith in Qualcomm's tech would reward consumers with the newer, much larger version of the scanner that Qualcomm announced late last year. But no phone has yet been announced that uses this part, and if Samsung does end up using it on the Galaxy Note line later this year, I believe S20 owners will feel rightfully miffed that Samsung's premier phone didn't get it first. But this is neither here nor there considering better, affordable technology exists right now that Samsung could have utilized. The current generation of optical in-screen fingerprint readers are just as fast as ultrasonic and much more reliable in all but a few edge cases (like direct sunlight).
It really does baffle me that Samsung insisted on using Qualcomm's tech again. Was it pricing? Supply chain availability? Exclusivity? Whatever reasons Samsung had, the end result is an inferior experience for consumers who should be demanding better. This isn't the first biometric misstep Samsung has made, either: its iris scanning technology that debuted on the Note7 was a cool party trick, but troublesome to actually use. Be it face recognition or simply a different fingerprint scanner, I hope Samsung does better next time.