Fingerprint

Apple paid big bucks to acquire AuthenTec, the world’s leading maker of fingerprint sensors. Following the $356 million deal, it took Apple’s teams an additional year or so to apply AuthenTec’s technology to Touch ID. An in-house project, Touch ID has rethought what fingerprint scanning on mobile devices should be like, resulting in a seamless and integrated solution that, in Apple’s parlance, “just works”.

That’s not saying Touch ID isn’t without pitfalls.

Apple cautions that fingerprint scanning doesn’t work well with greasy or wet fingers and there are reports of old people’s prints not being recognized properly as a result of a few decades worth of scarring and general wear and tear.

Despite rumors that Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5 would feature iris scanning, KGI Research analysts instead pointed to a fingerprint sensor.

And now a publication called SamMobile says it’s been able to confirm with a Samsung source that the feature will work by swiping one’s finger over the handset’s redesigned Home button. It would let users unlock the device by swiping and remember website passwords, the latter not (yet) being supported by Touch ID…

SamMobile has the scoop, claiming Samsung has implemented the sensor right into the Galaxy S5’s Home button.

“Apple and HTC have already implemented fingerprint sensors into their devices,” reads the story, “but none of their mobile devices use the sensor to its full potential, or like how Samsung is using in its upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5.”

As an added touch, the upcoming Galaxy will seemingly “show real-time image of your fingerprint on the display as you swipe your finger over the sensor,” SamMobile writes.

It then goes on to describe Samsung’s Touch ID:

The sensor itself works in a swipe manner, which means that you would need to swipe the entire pad of your finger, from base to tip, across the home key to register your fingerprint properly.

Also, you would need to keep your finger flat against the Home key and swipe at a moderate speed or else it won’t recognise your fingerprint.

Other tidbits:

  • you’ll be able to use fingerprint scanning throughout the operating system
  • a total of eight prints can be registered
  • each print can be assigned to a different task or app shortcut
  • at least one fingerprint must be used to unlock the device
  • a new Personal Folder and Private Mode will make it easy to hide personal apps, widgets, and content and protect them with your print
  • you’ll be able to verify your Samsung account using your fingerprint
  • and most importantly, Samsung’s fingerprint-scanning implementation will support saving website usernames and passwords

Samsung’s Touch ID is said to be sensitive to moisture as well.

Activator + Touch ID
If you’re jailbroken, dozens of Touch ID tweaks are available on Cydia.

It sounds like Samsung’s tech won’t be as reliable or seamless as Apple’s implementation. Not only does Apple’s solution not require swiping, Touch ID lets you scan your finger via the Home button in any particular orientation, even if the finger only partially touches the sensor.

Let’s not forget that sensors based on swiping are unreliable and prone to malfunction and wear and tear. We don’t know if Samsung is using a third-party sensor or an in-house developed solution.

Touch ID scan fingerprint

SamMobile’s story contradicts a recent report by The Korea Times which said fingerprint scanning on the Galaxy S5 would be available on the bottom left and right sides.

Also, this:

“Scanning fingerprints on the entire screen, which was much talked about recently, will be available in the latter half of this year as there are still technological hurdles to overcome,” as per The Korea Times.

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes that a cool 670 participants registered 2,810 algorithms in this year’s Fingerprint Verification Contest.

Samsung’s invitation for the upcoming Unpacked 5 event hints the Galaxy S5 could be announced next Monday, February 24, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

It’s true that Touch ID may feel underutilized: the feature only lets you unlock your device and authorize iTunes purchases. On the other hand, iOS updates could easily add new capabilities such as protect your iCloud Keychain with fingerprint data or let Touch ID remember and automatically enter website usernames and passwords.

And of course, we’re expecting Touch ID mobile payment to be introduced with iOS 8.

In fact, Apple has 1.67 billion reasons to introduce a Touch ID mobile payment system, as rumored: according to Tech Node, The People’s Bank of China in 2013 processed 1.67 billion mobile payment transitions worth $1.6 trillion, a 318 percent annual increase in the world’s largest consumer market.

Why would Apple want to miss out on that opportunity?

Apple’s iTunes billing system processes digital transactions for over half a billion customers with one-click purchasing enabled, creating an instant market for a Touch ID payment system.

Thoughts?