Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Samsung Galaxy S6 Details Will Anger Apple


iOS. That’s what most iPhone and iPad owners cite when they explain why they bought their device. Being part of Apple’s ecosystem is a massive draw for many, but for Apple’s future Touch ID and its intrinsic role in security and finance offers a bigger differentiator than the subjective arguments about iOS vs Android. And now Samsung is going to copy it.

Ever reliable Samsung specialist site SamMobile reports that a Touch ID clone is going to be front and center in the company’s upcoming (and radically redesigned) Galaxy S6. Samsung has been here before with a wholly rubbish swipe-based fingerprint reader, but it is now switching to a touch-based unit as used in current iPhones and iPads.
iOS. That’s what most iPhone and iPad owners cite when they explain why they bought their device.

Touch is both more accurate and convenient than swipe as it can see a larger area of your thumb all in one go. To accommodate it is alleged that the Galaxy S6 home button will enlarged. This could prove a controversial decision given the growing trend in Android phones to make top and bottom bezels as narrow as possible.

Still it appears Samsung is going all in with the new sensor and out the box SamMobile claims it will offer the following features:

    Fingerprint Unlock: Verifies the user’s identity and unlocks the device
    Web sign-in: Allows users to sign into websites using fingerprints
    Verify Samsung Account: Verifies the user’s identity when purchasing content in Samsung services
    Private Mode: It’s not specifically a fingerprint-exclusive feature, but allows user to choose fingerprint as an unlock method
    Pay with PayPal: Allows users to make quick and secure payments via their PayPal account using their registered fingerprints

Personally I think a lot of this makes sense. Samsung can improve security, match a long-time Apple differentiator and go a step ahead of Android rivals.

That said I also think it has the potential to backfire spectacularly…

Foremost is the fact there is no native fingerprint reader ecosystem within Android. Yes it can recognise fingerprint (and face) unlock, but it isn’t hardwired through the operating system like Touch ID is in iOS.

This means Samsung will need to build its own infrastructure which will do little to attract those already put off by the company’s bloatware.

Secondly Touch ID presents physical problems. I have already bemoaned the fact that the Galaxy S6 is expected to enlarge its screen to 5.5-inches, blurring the line with the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4. Big screens can be accommodated with tiny bezels as LG managed with the G3, but not if Samsung is going to have to increase the size of its home button for the new touch sensor.

Consequently while it makes a lot of sense for Samsung to integrate a superior fingerprint sensor it also represents a big risk if the software infrastructure around it is half baked and the phone looks oversized. In a way Samsung is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t.

For me the long term future for fingerprint sensors it to put them on the back near where an index finger would naturally lie. Then use onscreen home, back and multitasking buttons like Google GOOGL’s Nexus devices so bezels can disappear altogether. Just a thought Samsung…