Shares of Synaptics (SYNA) closed up 13.35% today at $49.76 thanks to an upgrade to sector overweight from sector weight from KeyBanc Capital Markets and a very impressive showing for the company’s fingerprint technology for smartphones at the just concluded Consumer Electronics Show.
Synaptics, a member of my Jubak Picks Portfolio–a lagging member, I’d certainly add–is now up 40.6% from its December 6 low at $35.40.
The company has made a number of necessary moves in the last two quarters to raise margins and expand its presence in the Internet of Things. And those steps have certainly helped the stock price.
But the new fingerprint sensor has been the big deal. With smartphone makers such as Samsung and Apple looking to maximize the size of their displays, phone designers have been hard pressed to figure out where to put a finger print reader. Placement on the back off the phone has struck many users as awkward. Add on difficulties in getting the technology of work–Apple ditched its use of a fingerprint reader to unlock its iPhone X in favor of face recognition technology because of those difficulties–and a reliable fingerprint sensor that accurately works when a user put a finger (even a wet finger) on the display had become something of a Holy Grail in the smartphone sector.
Which is why when Synaptics said it had produced a sensor that did just that, and then signed a contract to supply a major Chinese phone maker Vivo with its sensors, and finally demonstrated the Clear ID technology at the Consumer Electronics show it was more than enough to move the stock.
The strong raves from technology writers such as Geoffrey Fowler in today’s Washington Post have been set up, to a degree, by dissatisfaction with Apple’s facial recognition ID–which Fowler says fails just often enough to be annoying–and with the Samsung, et. al. decision to put the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. Nothing like a failed implementation to lower the bar.
But from all accounts Synaptics’ Clear ID reader actually delivers the ability to read fingerprints through the screen (as long as the screen is the thin OLED screen used on the newest top end smart phones) with an accuracy that Fowler pegs at 98%.
The clincher for Wall Street, of course, is that Clear ID works well enough on the Vivo phone and solves what is a well described problem so that other phone makers won’t be able to avoid at least talking to Synaptics about putting its technology in their phones. Qualcomm (QCOM) is known to be working on a similar through the screen fingerprint reader, but the company hasn’t yet demonstrated the technology. For the moment–and maybe for as long as the next 18 months–Synaptics is the only game in town.