Source code reveals discarded Nexus 6 fingerprint scanner

by: Rob TriggsDecember 9, 2014
1.4K

nexus 6 review aa (11 of 14)

The Nexus 6 packs in some of the best hardware that you can find in a smartphone right now, but it’s missing one component found in some of its competitors – a fingerprint scanner. However, according to changes spotted in the Android Open Source Project, the Nexus 6, or Shamu as it was known during development, had fingerprint scanner support enabled until as late as August 25th 2014.

The commit is unambiguous, “shamu: remove fingerprint support”. You can see the change right here. The code also reveals a fair bit about the fingerprint hardware that was planned for the Nexus 6. The line “system/vendor/lib/hw/ValidityPersistentData:synaptics” suggests that the scanner was supplied by Validity Sensors, which sells touchscreen controllers to a number of smartphone OEMs. Methods including FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_FAST” and “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_SLOW” hint that the fingerprint scanner would have been of the swipe variety, like the Note 4, rather than stationary touch method, such as the Ascend Mate 7 or latest iPhone.

There is also evidence to suggest that Google was planning to launch a broader fingerprint API along with the Nexus 6, which perhaps would have been another key feature of Android Lollipop. Other files point to implementing a fingerprint lockscreen as a standard setting, allowing for “scanning, enrolling, [and] removing” of a fingerprint to and from the system, and a picture-based authentication method that would indicate which part of the finger would need to be scanned next.

A comment found within the code also mentions a service developed by Google that would be responsible for managing multiple clients with access to the fingerprint API. Potentially, this would allow other apps and services to make use of the fingerprint data, perhaps for secure payments through Google Wallet and the like.

Sadly the big unanswered questions remain, why did Google scrap a fingerprint scanner and will the project reappear in a future version of Android? Most likely, the fingerprint software wasn’t ready yet, but this means that Google’s new API could arrive in an upcoming version of Android, perhaps in a future Lollipop revision, although when is anyone’s guess.

Would you have liked to see the Nexus 6 include a fingerprint scanner and do you see fingerprint app integration as a key feature in the future?

  • Zeke

    It would be awesome if someone finishes it.
    Hoping! :)

    • Sam Unwin

      Here comes XDA

    • MasterMuffin

      So we’ll get it as a software update? ;)

    • frhow

      No hardware to support it.

  • Alex

    I’m Glad they scrapped the finger print scanner, I don’t any of that gimmicky crap on my nexus 6

    • How is a fingerprint scanner a gimmick??

      • Prasad Velkuri

        because Apple has the current advantage and we Android fans dont like that way.

        • MasterMuffin

          It’s a gimmick if it’s as bad as Samsung’s implementation. No to swiping!

          • Actually if you’ve ever used it and used it right it works perfectly fine. Don’t blame Samsung for user error.

          • MasterMuffin

            I blame Samsung for not making it as good

        • Alex

          It was a gimmick when Apple implemented it, it was a gimmick when Samsung implemented it. This has nothing to do with Apple, it’s to do with the technology. I’m no fanboy, hating something just because the competition has the advantage in it is stupid.

          • Prasad Velkuri

            I dont think it is a gimmick. Just try and crack your neighbors TouchID. It is extremely difficult for normal people.
            It is a good start as it enables no-security to some-security. On the other hand if you have a crappy implementation then it is definitely a gimmick.

    • John Johnson

      I’d much rather they’d have given us an IR port, which I find myself missing dearly. Gotta go back to using the stupid Harmony remote for the TV….bah.

    • br00tus

      NGL, i thought it was a gimmick too until i got my note 4. so much faster than pattern or passcode lock. that said, it also keep’s prying eyes away as people have to ask me to unlock my phone now. (if someone saw you put in a pattern lock, they would know it forever).

      • rob3211

        Note 4s finger print scanner is meh at best rarely works and is very picky. Works terrible one handed as well as terrible if you have a car mount. Apples touch ID is far better.

        The use for a finger print scanner is undeniable it is very convenient but those of the swipe variety are inferior than the press scanners. I wont be using the scanner on my Note 4.

  • hzd

    Its possibly there to support scanners on existing devices when they upgrade to lolipop, just not in the nexus 6 branch.

    • Armaggedon16

      Thumbprint scanner is in the hardware,it’s impossible to have it with software

      • hzd

        You still need a unified api to control any standardized fingerprint actions / system functions or calls.

        Regardless of no hardware in the N6, Google will need an api for gpe devices in the future for 5.x.x builds as more and more OEMs are adopting this utterly useless marketing feature. . .

        Fingerprint scanners where shit 10years ago on IBM platforms why would we want them now

  • Before I got my Note 4 I swore I’d never use a fingerprint scanner on a phone. Fast Forward: Picked up the Note 4 now I feel that’s the best way to secure a device and so much faster to unlock vs using a pin or password, I love it.

    • rob3211

      And it is far inferior to the one touch scanners like in the iPhone.

      I found my note 4s finger print scanner to be more bothersome than useful.

      • Are you using it right? Mine works right on the first thumb ship every time

        • rob3211

          First mistake was asking if I’m using it right kinda like apple having there customers holding their phone right.

          But yes it’s just not very accurate you have to have your thumb exactly in the same spot for it to work which is not convenient and terrible for one hand use

  • Janet

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    • Sophia

      Great Share!

      • hzd

        Great spamn advertising both of you, get lost

  • Luis Fernando

    The meizu mx4 pro has fingerprint scanner that work like the touch ID (you only need to touch the button and less of 0.5s the phone unlock it) :/

  • Nicolas Finn

    First of all, I don’t want the swipe fingerprint reader, glad it’s not here. If it was a simple touch sensor (like the iPhone), then I’d definitely like the feature.

    However, I don’t think this functionality would have made much sense on the Nexus 6… Where would they have put it? The best position I can think of would be the bottom front-facing speaker, which means users giving up the second speaker in favor of a very-seldom used swipe fingerprint reader.

    Lastly, with the recent interpretations of our Fourth Amendment rights in jeopardy, I don’t think fingerprint readers are the way to go when it comes to individual privacy and security. The pattern/pin works well enough for most uses. If they would switch the PIN input so that the digits randomize (so that onlookers can’t distinguish my PIN when I type it in someplace public), then I would be even happier with the idea, but it’s still better than a fingerprint, which we can be physically forced to unlock without our consent.

    • Armaggedon16

      It could have been on the back like that one huawei phone

  • crutchcorn

    Aww if it’s like the Apple kind, yay if it’s the Sammy kind.

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