Fingerprint sensors: Do you care? Do you want them on Android? [Open thread]

September 10, 2013
    One of the main features of the new iPhone 5S is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. But is it a user experience breakthrough or a solution in search of a problem?

    apple touch id fingerprint scanner

    Apple is really good at selling stuff. Its marketing acumen is second to none, and that is highly visible in its masterfully choreographed events and promotional videos. That’s why I won’t judge anyone for watching Sir Jony Ive talk about Touch ID and thinking that fingerprint recognition is the greatest technology to ever grace a smartphone.

    Alas, real life has the nasty habit of getting in the way of marketing claims, so it remains to be seen if Touch ID is everything that Apple sells it to be. For now, until we see the first hands-on reviews of the feature, let’s see what Touch ID is and how it works.

    How Touch ID works

    Touch ID is the fingerprint scanner built into the home button of the iPhone 5S. Apple touted a series of tech specs for the sensor, though I am not quite sure what’s the utility of knowing that the sensor is 170 microns thick or that it has a 500ppi resolution. The device “scans sub-epidermal skin layers” and can recognize a fingerprint regardless of the orientation. On top of the redesigned button, there’s a sapphire window, a material known for its scratch resistance. The metal ring around it is called a “detection ring”, though its actual utility isn’t clear to me.

    Touch ID unlocks the device, and also works with iTunes and the App Store, replacing the password. Users can set several fingerprints, and I presume that should also allow device sharing, though Apple wasn’t clear about multi-user capabilities.

    The pitfalls

    Making fingerprint sensors work well is hard – just ask any of the companies that tried to incorporate the tech in their consumer devices over the years. Motorola and HP are perhaps the best known examples, and recently Samsung and LG have been rumored to consider adding fingerprint sensors to their flagships, only to give up on their plans when faced with technical challenges. HTC may use it on the upcoming One Max.

    motorola-atrix-fingerprint-sensor-chestertan

    The 2011 Motorola Atrix featured a fingerprint sensor on its back.

    ChesterTan

    What are the problems that Apple or any other company must solve to take fingerprint sensors to the mainstream?

    • It has to be simple to use
    • It has to be faster than typing a PIN or password
    • It has to be secure, both against physical tempering and software attacks

    We’ll see soon enough if Apple solved these three big problems, in which case I will be the first to sing the praises of Touch ID. But if the tech doesn’t substantially make the users’ life better, it’s just “rampant technology” as Jony Ive put it.

    Personally, I actually hope that Apple got it right this time, because that will spur everyone in the industry to find ways to make device authentication less of a hassle.

    What’s your take?

    How do you feel about fingerprint scanning and biometric identification in general? Have you ever found yourself wishing for a way to authenticate into your device without using a password or PIN? What’s your experience with fingerprint sensors?

    Should Android manufacturers work on including biometric scanners in devices?

    Sound off in the comments and answer our polls.

    What do you think of the iPhone 5S' fingerprint sensor?

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    Comments

    • le_lutin

      If it works as well as the video shows, then it’s absolutely fantastic – as a security measure it would be definitely be superior to a PIN (IMO).

      Note that I am not an apple fanboy (in fact I would never buy an apple product), but in this case I think apple have nailed it.

    • APai

      “What do you think of the fingerprint sensor?”
      NSA nightmare in the making.

    • Ugo Marceau

      TouchID will be great if it works in under a second. Basically what would be awesome is if when you grab you phone in your pocket, by the time you’ve raised your arm up to look at the screen, it’s already unlocked and up and running. That would be brilliant.

    • Flipper

      No a trained chimp could get around fingerprint sensors its extremely easy and no security whatsoever

      • Beaten_Dead_Horse

        But I keep my phone near untrained chimps. So this is something for me to think about.

        I will just get the G2.

    • Kacho_ON

      If a cop beats you up or puts you in handcuffs he will have less trouble with the TouchID than a pattern for android

      • wezi427

        That’s just a stupid comment. It shows your character as a person.

        • fagbuster

          you are such a fag

          • wezi427

            Are you homophobic? Judging from your name you must be or you say things like that because your in the closet. Either way you are an A$$hole.

    • Bone

      That NSA or any party accessing your data will have your fingerprint concerns me big time. I’m almost certain Apple is working with the government on this one, Obama veto, silence around the spying scandal, iOS security backdoors and now fingerprint scan? You’ll be in the database with common criminals.

      It’s not a gimmick but a useful feature in a perfect world (although it will be funny when the one finger that unlocks it will be greasy/dirty/holding some bag/gloved and you cannot do anything). In the real world, it’s yet another advantage you are giving to unwanted parties.

      -1

      • Matthew Wypyszinski

        Its not hard for the government to get their hands on your finger prints as it is. It is not against the law for example to collect a sample if you are brought in for questioning. They have a full copy of mine because i once did a job that worked closely with children and that is required down here.

        • Ivan Myring

          If you were in the UK and said you work closely with children, at least at the moment, you would get arrested

      • Rajkumar

        Dont comment if you don’t know a shit about it… appl has clrarly mentioned that thes id will not be stored in cloud nor synced.and the datas will remain in some dep down part of.A7

        • APai

          “dep down part of.A7″
          oh wow. if they really need it, they can waltz through apple’s cheesecake security. just like they can through every other OS, or with backdoors.

        • biteme

          i would suggest you learn English grammar you moron.

      • Roberto Tomás

        the thing is, they already have access to *all sorts* of personal identity evidence from you if they want it.
        Just be near you when you talk, and they can gather your voice biometrics.
        Use a ~8MP camera close up, and they have an accurate iris scan — use a 40MP camera, and they can be across a room.
        Follow you to a 7-11, and wait for you to throw away an empty cup of coffee, and they have your fingerprint (actual fingerprint), and your DNA.
        Believe me, fi they want to know who you are, they are going to find out! :P

        • Bone

          Exactly why I don’t want one more personal data hitting whoever who cracks access to my phone, and I certainly don’t want my fingerprint added to the criminal archive cause I’m not one.

          Don’t think any minority likes when a police car slows down and turns on the flashlight as if you’re doing something shady cause you know, we expect you to do, nor having someone standing 24/7 under your window and if you ask him why, he says “if you are doing nothing wrong, you shouldn’t really care about me standing here with my camera”. Say what?

          • fatgit

            exactly i should be able to record you day and night (especially if you are a minority) whats the problem

      • Keg Man

        I’d say most people have had their fingerprints taken. I have three in the following list of examples I can think of for getting fingerprinted.

        1. Mom took me as a kid incase I was ever kidnapped.
        2. apply for state or govt Job.
        3. apply for gun permit or firearms ID card
        4. many background checks for other types of private employment require this
        5. any volunteer work dealing with kids like a t-ball coach
        6. get arrested, even if never found guilty or charges dropped
        7. joined military
        8. Some states require thumbprint for drivers license

        most people have at least 1 if not all their fingerprints already on file. who cares

        • isheephater

          baaaa guess you fit squarely into the isheep category. baaaaa

          • Keg Man

            this isn’t even relevant to the conversation. I was replying to a guy who said this would only encourage govt fingerprint database. Comprehension fail

    • Matthew Wypyszinski

      I honestly think the future of biometric sensors on cellphones would probably be an optical one since we are rapidly reaching the point where the digital cameras on our phones should be able to read such a thing, without any extra hardware.

      • raj

        You are actually right

      • lil bit

        Optical sensors cant detect the deeper layers, and definitively not the bloodvessel structure. Not safe or accurate enough.

    • Doan

      If it works consistently, I’d be interested.

    • Xennex1170

      Hmm.. Wouldn’t this make it easier to prank someone that falls asleep with their phone accessible? e.g. get your phone and slide your finger on the sensor while you doze away.. Or if put to sleep somehow.. :p Much harder to access if password/pin/pattern.

      • lil bit

        You are right about this, it enables wifes and girlfriends to check for other girls while you sleep, this is the best thing ever for jealous girls. Give the guy some Rohypnol first if he is a light sleeper.

    • Luka Mlinar

      The bigger the gimmick the more people rage about it. I’ll pass…

    • OMGgary

      The only thing I want to know about is how to turn it off. Even then I would probably want to put a foil sticker on top of the home button just in case.

    • TechGuy

      Some thug won’t just steal your iPhone, they’ll also have your finger.

      • kirev

        LOL.. :D

      • RaptorOO7

        They will beat you senseless until you unlock it and allow them to wipe it. So now we go from iphone thefts to iphone murders and thefts. Cool.

        • shakespeare

          no they will just cut your finger off. Simple :) it will happen

          • Crufe7

            Or they would just beat you senseless and put your finger on the phone???? That’s what I would do.

        • On a Clear Day

          Exactly. If someone is really determined – and deadly serious – they will physically force you to open it or cut off your finger. This technology would help keep out a garden variety thief long enough to wipe one’s phone but like encrypting a phone not stop someone who was truly evil and determined from getting what they want.

      • criz

        but finger cut off is better than face being sliced for face unlock Lol….

    • Hoggles

      Seems like a really cool option. Could see it being very useful. The Sapphire is a very nice addition. I love tech…so I could care less who the manufacturer is.

    • Spruce Cycle

      It’s a gimmick but the masses want the newest and the latest whether or not it’s the most useful so Android manufactures must start adding this function as an option on its flagships even tho u and i know it’s still undeveloped tech.

      • Skander

        Samsung really sucked this time.
        Fingerprint testing started from the S3 leaked firmwares (and covered) with hidden tutorials and fingerprints etc, they didn’t release it with the Note 3 and that’s a tiny mistake.

        I owe you a quickie if it doesn’t come in the S5.

        • Spruce Cycle

          Lol

    • kirev

      fingerprint scanner is nice, but it’s just another additional authentication feature.
      for smartphone security, device ENCRYPTION is more important.

      fingerprint scanner can add another layer of security,

      but it should never replace pin/password authentication in first place.

    • Jason Solomon

      Yes! I think Android manufacturers should start including Finger print sensors as I think it’s the way of the future.

    • Jin

      next!

    • raj

      “Touch IDs… It makes everything disappears”…. Even the current Apple customers

    • Roberto Tomás

      I don’t care if it is a finger print scan, an iris scan, or a voice print scan, but some form of identification that is less of a hassle than a password is in order.

    • viaimages

      i laugh when i think about the super high technology fingerprint scanners at the airport, airline offices, etc.. they are so quirky.. i think this will be interesting. bring it!

    • RATBURL

      Just another way to track you and use you and who the hell cares what platform uses it.

    • viaimages

      LOL when Ivy talks in the video above.. i can’t help but block him out and think about Kit Kat’s

    • RaptorOO7

      Gimmick! Motorola did it way before apple did and it didn’t take off. apple does it and it’s “innovative” seriously, oh yeah, really innovative phil the schill.

    • Verizon

      We have plans to start charging for this in the near future.

    • Santiago Ochoa

      I’ve had a Motorola Atrix for more than two years and can’t live without the fingerprint sensor. It is extremely easy and fast to unlock. I tried to upgrade it to CyanogenMod 10.X (Jelly Bean) but had to go back to 7.2 (Gingerbread) because the new kernel didn’t have the fingerprint unlocking and I just can’t get used to entering a pin or pattern, it requires that you see the screen and it takes too long. I don’t think I will change my phone until a better Android unlocking technology is implemented. It has to be some kind of biometric reader that doesn’t require that you look at the phone or screen.

    • wikwakcow

      And when your finger is scratched / hurts / having a blister, can you still use the phone?

      • APai

        the iPHONE will show you the middle finger :P

      • Michael

        On HP laptops with the fingerprint sensor it asks which authentication method you want to log in with. As the support person, I register my fingerprint and the user sets his own password. I don’t see a problem with fingerprints just being an available option. Users can ignore it if they don’t like it.

      • lil bit

        Surely you can bypass the fingerprint with a pin or password, and in any case it would take a serious injury to invalidate your fingerprint.

        And to quote TV Shop, “but theres more”. You can store multiple fingerprints and use an alternate finger if your hand got eaten by a pitbull or meat grinder.

    • Balraj

      My friend owns hp laptop with fingerprint scanner.it works fine…no flaws
      You got to Apple for teaching ppl how to implement one a phone…HTC one max also has a similar feature but not perfectly crafted…Nyways haters will hate..let’s see how ONE MAX deals with fingerprint scanner
      (I think I’ll be down voted cause I’m backing Apple here lol)
      Out of so many hands on I have seen…ppl say it works flawlessly

    • Balraj

      Also it’s a matter of time…Samsung starts taking lessons
      Samsung also has a physical home button on its phones

    • Rana

      Well, this thing could defiantly stop someone from spying on my phone… I mean they can ask me for my password and I have to give it to them, but I can’t really cut my thumbs for their satisfaction :P

      But that being said, just one feature won’t entice me to buy the iPhone 5s(ame).

      Their closed ecosystem is not what I want… When I buy a phone, I want to own it and not just be allowed to do what Apple wants me to….

    • Steven S

      ok Google, remind Me to bring knife sharp enough to chop fingers when leaving home en route to part-time smartphone stealing work

      • Wilfred

        you can also chop someone’s head off if they are using Andriod face recognition? Or torture someone til they tell you their the passcode? Time to make some sense guys…

      • lil bit

        It wouldnt work on a cut off finger. Its not simply a fingerprint scanner, it scans “sub-epidermal skin layers”. Bloodvessel structure recognition for example require that you are alive and has some blood and blood pressure.

    • Ruz

      Its useless to have such features on your smartphones. My phone at times is also operated by others in my house so definitely i have to switch off this feature when not in use. Secondly what if some part becomes malfunction and you are not able to unlock your phone due to this? It can be hardware or OS or programming malfunctioning or even a virus attack.. Would not like to have this feature at all and risk my phone. Common its just a small phone and not a nuclear plant that i am using

      • gommer strike

        Your usage of the phone doesn’t reflect everyone else’s. Many of us use smartphones for work and require some security on the device.

      • lil bit

        It allows for several fingerprints to be stored, no problem to add the other users.

    • gecimano

      Touch id by Apple. And in the fine print cooperation with NSA…

    • Alex Amaya

      how about if someone gets drunk or passes out or something, somebody could just scan your finger and have access to your private data or gets hold of your “super secret stash of girlfriend fun time pics” no thanks i’ll stick with good ol’ trusty passwords :)

    • Valtheus

      Imho… totally useless. Why on earth would you need a fingerprint scanner on your smartphone, besides trying to look cool and show to the others: hey look i got a fingerprint scanner on my phone. I didn’t know that unlocking your phone was such a big deal.

      Companies should use their resources to implement really useful technologies in their smartphones, (like moto x did with screen notifications for example), rather than flashy features that don’t really have something useful to offer.

      • le_lutin

        If you’re not the kind of person who has a PIN or their phone then the finger print scannner probably isn’t for you.

        If you are security conscious (NSA issues aside), then this is a fantastic innovation which will save you time.

    • zubairali

      i have fingerprint scanner in my laptop but I have never used it,

      • lil bit

        Me too never used it but thats mainly because i am too lazy to mess with Linux drivers, it just isnt worth the trouble.

    • Jon E

      Having worked with fingerprint recognition tech before I can only say that it’s a very stupid move. Unless you use an expensive scanner that looks at the vein structure it’s very hit and miss. Then the reward if you use the expensive scanner is so low what is the point.

      Further more if you’re wearing gloves etc that will be a pain eh? Apple really is getting desperate for new ways to con people that they have a good product!

      • lil bit

        it says that it scans “sub-epidermal skin layers”, sounds good enough to me. Apple does not have a history of introducing half baked features.

        • Jon E

          Yeah so that pushes the price nice and high. And I stand by the fact that the technology still can’t scan through gloves.

    • Sandeep Nadella

      Now to replace your home button it costs about Rs 4000 I guess………….

    • alloy

      NSA to have world’s largest finger print data base…

    • jamie

      I love it! Just as long as you can turn it off and use an ordinary password that is.

    • jamie

      Detection ring would be so you can find the sensor without looking

      • lil bit

        I read somewhere that the ring is like a proximity sensor that activates the scanner, probably for saving power. Would be stupid if you had to press the button to activate teh scanner.

    • Mutomi Sconi

      i think its matured enough, shoot its been on other mobiles as you mentioned, and has been on laptops for atleast 10 years now, infact i love it on my laptops, just a swipe and thats it.

      Anyone since motorola could have done this, but rather than look at the phone as a compelling suite of software and hardware, most vendors look at it like a spec war, Now that apple has done it, you’ll see a lot of people pushing it.(unfortunate since moto did it first, but didn’t do it right)

      The only thing that’ll kill this for apple is if there is a bit of lag between reading the print and opening the phone, people won’t stand even a 500 millisecond wait.

    • john

      all iphone is now copy? Motorola must sue apple. Now fingerprint for what if years ago exists face detection with patron or password?

    • john

      Next version of android will be APPLE PIE ! !

    • Jason Yuen

      2 words. Toe print. Then you can have your scanner and also not be paranoid about the NSA. Just sayin.

    • lil bit

      Author,

      ” The metal ring around it is called a “detection ring”, though its actual utility isn’t clear to me.”

      It activates the fingerprint scanner.

    • lil bit

      Im impressed, its gonna be wildly popular. For me, i dont think i need one but better to have than not.

    • thedarklord

      piece of sellotape over sensor followed by white paper then press it. simple bypass . system defeated.easy as about as secure as facelock.

      • pinky

        hehe thats how i used to get into my old laptop when the sensor played up.

      • lil bit

        Again, this isn’t just another fingerprint sensor, it goes deeper into the skin layers.

    • lordvader

      so not only does apple have your bank details and all your digital data that you put on the device along with voice print via Siri ,now they want your fingerprint, what next a dna sample?

    • han solo

      i would say the real reason for this is to create a massive fingerprint database then when one gets stolen the thief presses the button which scans his fingerprint matches it against AFIS systems and tells the law who exactly took it , truly frightening , really.

    • LALinMN

      I think it could be a killer android feature if it was developed further and made faster and very consistent (of course it would surely incur the wrath of the “Apple created everything in existence and everybody else are copycats” clan of iPhone users). Additionally an option to have the phone automatically switch to password/PIN/Pattern security during specified hours would help keep nighttime creepers at bay.

    • Xepirg

      No Way!!!!! they will send Ur fingerprint to government. Look around folks

    • chanMO

      you can change your password or pin code whenever you feel unsafe , even if it stolen , you can make new one . but when your finger print lost or stolen , you have only 10 times chance to remake or consider using your toes will double the chances.

    • Robert Matear

      Android should have added a fingerprint system similar to this a long time ago. I’m not sure why they decided to employ face detection, when clearly that can only work in daylight, hence practically USELESS.
      Apple implemented this in the best way, by putting the sensor in a convenient area etc etc
      I hope this technology hasn’t had a patent applied by Apple, because if Android added this to their next line of Nexus devices, it would be fabulous.
      Excellent example: where the LED notification currently exists on the Nexus 4. Creating a larger “glowing” area around the LED for when fingerprint is required, this would be a flawless way to identify the user, and get rid of bullshit methods for unlocking the phone which just don’t work all the time and aren’t practical.

      I’ve used fingerprint scanners on a previous laptop I had, it never ever ever malfunctioned, it was extremely accurate and worked in ALL light conditions. I need not say anymore, Android should adopt this technology ASAP.

    • shatner

      Now that Apple’s fingerprint sensor is a great success, everyone wants it LOL

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