Biometric login: top 10 smartphones with fingerprint readers
By Mihai A.
Jun 07, 2015, 6:28 PM
For years, the password has been slowly dying, and although it will probably be a while before the password is replaced as the primary method of authentication, the tide is turning. Today, we'll take a look at the top 10 smartphones that come with fingerprint sensors.
There are many trains of thought as to what should come after the password, but biometric login systems currently seem to be the path of the future. Each of us is unique due to his/her biological characteristics, and because of this, sensors that manage to map out these differences have a lower failure rate than passwords, which are much easier to replicate by a prospective attacker.
Currently, the most evolved and the most popular biometric authentication system is the fingerprint reader. Outside of the mobile market, fingerprint readers have been around about a couple of decades, although they were quite inefficient at first. As with all types of sensors, however, fingerprint sensors only became smaller, more reliable, and easier to use as the years have passed.
Iris scanners now seem to be developing as a new branch of biometric authentication, with the first smartphones to integrate the technology already starting to emerge in Asian markets. However, before trying to anticipate how iris scanners will change the authentication landscape, it might be useful to turn our attention to the present and analyze how the fingerprint reader was able to shake the throne of the almighty password.
Apple iPhone 6 / 6 Plus
The Apple iPhone 6 series comes with a very reliable fingerprint reader. First introduced with the iPhone 5S, Apple's Touch ID technology makes use of touch-based fingerprint readers that can successfully map out fingerprints independent of the orientation of the finger. To unlock the handset or authorize a payment, just touch the home button.
On the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Touch ID is a technology that stands at the very heart of Apple Pay, the NFC-based mobile payment system developed by Apple. The sensors have not improved much compared to the ones used by the iPhone 5S, but using biometric authentication to enhance mobile payment systems definitely wins extra points for Apple.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are the first smartphones from Samsung to make use of touch-based fingerprint readers. The previous smartphones from the manufacturer used the older swype-based sensors that were much more unreliable than this new type of fingerprint readers. When it comes to comparing the Samsung Galaxy S6 fingerprint scanner to the Apple iPhone 6 Touch ID, our tests prove that the two are too close to call.
Samsung will soon launch a fingerprint-based mobile payment service of its own, and the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are very likely to be one of the first devices to get Samsung Pay when the service launches this fall.
Meizu MX4 Pro
One of the things that makes the Meizu MX4 Pro a strong competitor in the Asian phablet landscape is the integration of a reliable fingerprint reader. Called 'mTouch' by Meizu, the technology employs a sensor of the touch-based variety, one that can also recognize wet fingers.
The touch-based fingerprint sensor that Huawei integrated on the back of its monster smartphone behaved well during our Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review. In particular, we liked the fact that the sensor can be used to unlock the handset when the screen is off.
The 6-inch phablet comes with a quad-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 chipset paired with either 2 or 3GB of RAM, meaning that it's got the specs to take on most tasks. The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is a premium metal phablet, but its availability through official channels is limited to European and Asian markets, meaning that you won't be able to pick one in the US.
Apple iPhone 5S
The iPhone 5S was the first Apple smartphone to use the Touch ID technology, and the handset provides a quick and reliable way of unlocking the device or authorizing an iTunes purchase. Although the sensor is basically the same as on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the iPhone 5S doesn't come with an NFC chip, and is thus unable to use Apple Pay.
Despite nearing its second anniversary, the iPhone 5S is still a solid smartphone option, especially if you're looking for a handset with compact form factor. Check out our full iPhone 5S review for more details.
To many HTC fans, the One M9+ was the most anticipated smartphone of this past Spring. Aside from a higher-resolution display, one of the main advantages that the One M9+ holds over its smaller brother is the integration of a fingerprint reader.
Currently available as a Chinese exclusive, the HTC One M9+ comes with a 5.2-inch display running a resolution of 1440 by 2560 pixels, a 2.2 octa-core Mediatek MT6795T chipset, 3GB of RAM, and 2840mAh battery, all packaged in a premium (although not very compact) metallic build.
The Oppo N3 comes with quite a few tricks under its belt. The fingerprint sensor is one of them, and our detailed Oppo N3 review revealed that the touch-enabled sensor works successfully about 9 out of 10 times. As an added sci-fi bonus, the fingerprint reader can be used to control the motorized swivel camera.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
The Galaxy Note 4 was one of the three fingerprint-sensing smartphones that Samsung launched in 2014. All of them came with swipe-based fingerprint readers, ones which don't work as accurately as we'd like. On the upside, the Galaxy Note 4 allows the user to register up to 10 fingerprints, and each one can be set up to launch a specific app, which is a nice feature.
Although not very recommendable based on the quality of its fingerprint sensor, the Galaxy Note 4 is one of the most powerful Android phablets that money can buy. Head on to our Galaxy Note 4 review to find out why this is a phone without any significant drawbacks.
Samsung Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5, launched back in Spring 2015, was the first Samsung smartphone to integrate a fingerprint sensor. The outdated sensor on the Galaxy S5 requires the user to slide a finger across the home button. It's a technology that isn't very reliable, as a successful read requires quite a bit of finger stretching.
The Galaxy S5 can still be purchased in the US, usually at mid-range prices. While no competitor against the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, the Galaxy S5 is still a smartphone with a lot to offer. Check out our Samsung Galaxy S5 review for more details.
Although it might seem like fingerprint readers on smartphones are a new idea, the Motorola Atrix was the first to bring the feature back in 2011, although the reliability of its scanner was notoriously poor
Compared to the other smartphones listed here, the Atrix is fairly outdated. Its specs include a 4-inch display with a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels, a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, 1GB of RAM, a 5MP primary camera, a VGA secondary shooter, and a 1930 mAh battery. Check out our Motorola Atrix review to find how we thought about the smartphone when it was launched back Q1 2011.
We've included the Motorola Atrix in this list to serve as a reference point for how much fingerprint sensors have evolved over the past four years.
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