Apple rival shows off phone with on-screen fingerprint scanner

vivo display

Chinese smartphone maker Vivo is showing off technology that would enable users to scan their fingerprints through the screen -- a feature Apple may use in the eagerly awaited iPhone 8.

Vivo, which outsells Apple in China, unveiled prototype phones this week that can be unlocked simply by touching the screens. The new touch ID also works underwater via a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone.

The phones that Vivo has on display at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai still have home buttons, but future models will do away with them, the company says.

"We think this is something that changes the way people interact with our phone," said Vivo spokesman Brent Loree. "It's going to be popular not only in the domestic market but also abroad as well, which is where we've started to gain more popularity."

The fingerprint scanner, which uses technology from U.S. tech firm Qualcomm (QCOM), will work "even if your phone is wet, or your fingers are wet or a little bit dirty," Loree said.

Related: What to expect with the iPhone 8

Ditching the physical home button allows the screen to cover the entire front of the phone, something smartphone makers have been pushing in their latest models.

Industry leader Samsung (SSNLF) touted its infinity display with the Galaxy S8, placing the home button underneath the screen. But users still have to swipe the screen to unlock the S8, or they can use the fingerprint scanner situated on the back of the device.

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy S8
First Look: Samsung's Galaxy S8

Apple's (AAPL) next iPhone 8 is widely expected to have an extended touchscreen that dominates the entire front side of the phone. That would mean removing the physical home button for an on-screen button or buttons.

Apple's circular home button already made use of fingerprint-scanning technology.

The U.S. tech giant is famously secretive about its upcoming products, so it's unclear whether the iPhone 8 will feature a fingerprint-scanning screen this fall.

But it's also uncertain whether Vivo will beat Apple to market with the technology. Loree said the company doesn't yet have a time line for when a model using it will go on sale.

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