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Samsung Galaxy S8's Fingerprint Sensor Conundrum

Many find the fingerprint sensor's placement in the new flagship phone awkward.

26/04/2017 2:45 PM IST | Updated 26/04/2017 4:13 PM IST
Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Everybody was impressed by Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ flagship smartphones when they were unveiled in New York on 29 March. The phones, with their 'infinity' screens, have a striking design. They look even more appealing because their home buttons have been removed from the front.

That decision, however, has led to some problems.

Up until now, the home button also used to host the fingerprint sensor. In Galaxy S8 — and S8+, which is essentially a bigger sized version of the same device — the sensor has been shifted to the back of the phone and placed, somewhat awkwardly, next to the camera. Samsung says that the sensor's placement was decided in order to avoid placing the battery further down the phone's chassis. (The last thing Samsung wants is any battery related issue.)

As phones go, Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are quite long. And that makes reaching the sensor while using the phone difficult for most people. Users might even have to switch the phone from one hand to the other in order to get to the sensor and unlock the phone.

Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Of late, many phones, such as LG G6 and Google Pixel, have done away with the front button in order to enhance screen space. They have all moved the fingerprint sensor to the back but placed it in the middle of the phone's body so that it is easily reachable.

Another problem with the S8 is that the fingerprint sensor's glass cover is not of a superior quality. As a result, many users have complained about the smudging and problems with unlocking the phone.

To make unlocking the phone convenient, besides the fingerprint sensor, Samsung has provided four other unlocking mechanisms in the S8 — PIN, pattern, IRIS scanner and Face Unlock. While the fingerprint scanner has been a favoured method for unlocking phones, in the S8, perhaps because of its awkward placement, the IRIS scanner is a preferred (and more accurate) option of unlocking the phone. However, the IRIS scanner can falter in bright daylight because it employs infrared rays.

The Face Unlock mechanism has been used earlier by Microsoft as part of Windows Hello to unlock systems. Samsung's implementation is not really foolproof. There have been instances where the S* was unlocked merely by using a photo.

The S8 was an opportunity for Samsung to become the first phonemaker to have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the screen. But, according to some investors, the implementation could not be completed because of strict production timelines.

It is still early days for Samsung Galaxy S8 but if the flagship phone's unlocking problem persists, fans will be disappointed.

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