A Samsung exec is said to have branded them ‘obsolete’. And a new wave of alternatives is threatening to usurp them altogether. It’s not that long since fingerprint scanners were big news, but now it seems they may be a casualty of fast–paced smartphone innovation themselves.
Here are five key reasons why their days could be numbered and what might come next.
1) Iris scanners are here
The unnamed Samsung exec who called fingerprint scanners ‘obsolete’, promising to ‘kill the fingerprint’, is only reflecting the work his own company has done in the past year. 2016’s Galaxy Note 7 featured an iris scanner as well as a fingerprint sensor, giving it an edge on rival devices.
Its discontinuation slowed the mainstream adoption of the tech, but its inclusion in Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and S8+ is assured. Expect to hear plenty about how it’s the future during Samsung’s 29th March event.
2) Facial recognition on its way
As well as iris-scanning, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are also said to come with facial recognition. Speaking of the plans, an anonymous Samsung staffer said, “Due to some limits of iris-scanning such as speed and accuracy, we have decided to add facial recognition to the Galaxy S8. With a face scanner, it will take less than 0.01 seconds to unlock the phone.”
The latest version of Google Android includes facial recognition tech, meaning other mobile makers could offer something similar in the near future. Fingerprint scanning is facing a dual threat.
3) Less secure than iris recognition
While fingerprint scanning is a solid, secure way of unlocking devices and paying for products online and in store, it’s widely accepted that iris scanners are more secure.
Although it needs infrared cameras to work, the detail of an iris cannot be replicated, unlike fingerprint scanners, which are incredibly difficult but not impossible to trick. Iris scanners have been used all over the world for building access and even as a passport replacement. If Samsung can crack it with the S8, expect its competitors to pile in with their own versions.
4) No more passwords
One of the boons of facial and iris recognition could be an end to passwords. Users could simply look into a smartphone’s camera without having to tap in details or try and remember the answers to those pesky ‘personal questions’ whenever they forget a login.
This is something fingerprint scanners haven’t managed to do and aren’t likely to any time soon. While this may be way off in the future, it’s something to get excited about.
5) The end of home buttons
As smartphone design evolves and the old–school home button becomes a thing of the past, could fingerprint scanners go the same way too?
Rear buttons are not nearly as smart as mobile makers would have you think. LG may use them and Samsung is clearly readying them for the S8 and S8+, but it’s likely Apple will eschew this approach with the iPhone 8, baking a fingerprint scanner into the screen. Instead, eye and face recognition will pick up the slack, making unlocking and using your phone with the blink of an eye a reality.