Why fingerprint gestures should become the norm for all smartphones

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Last year, alongside the great influx of smartphones equipped with fingerprint scanners in all price ranges, a new trend emerged in the Android world, which, albeit on a small-scale still, is something that should turn into a mainstay of all smartphones.

The ever increasing screen sizes necessitate an alternative to the current input method — that is, tapping a touchscreen — that facilitates the user experience by making it easier to reach certain areas, and perform actions on a large display, without having to reach unnecessarily far or use a second hand.

2016 brought us a couple of phones that utilized their built-in fingerprint scanners better than the rest, in that their biometric sensors were assigned tasks other than just authenticating the user. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL, the Huawei P9, and the Honor 8, to name a few, all came packing a neat feature that allowed users to interact with various parts of their interfaces by swiping over their fingerprint scanners.

Enter, fingerprint scanner gestures.


If you haven't laid hands on one of the aforementioned phones, or are not familiar with the concept at all, it is understandable if you are not yet sold on the idea of fingerprint gestures. Worry not, as we will try to explain why we think this feature should become a mainstay for all future smartphones.

First of all, displays aren't getting smaller. Quite the opposite in fact, they are only getting bigger. With major phone makers, such as Samsung and LG, ditching the current standard 16:9 screen aspect ratio in favor of taller displays that help maximize the available space, smartphones are getting a bit narrower and decidedly taller, which makes reaching the top of their displays with one hand harder than it already is. One-handed use is severely limited on current phones with displays larger than 5.5 inches, without doing some gymnastics, that is, but imagine what it would be like on something that's even taller and has an almost edge-to-edge display.

Now imagine how much easier it would be, for example, to pull down the notification shade on your massive 6.2-inch phone by simply swiping down over the fingerprint scanner, and send it flying back up by swiping in the opposite direction. Those of you who own a Google Pixel, or a Nexus 6P or 5X after the latest update, can corroborate on this. Although not pervasive throughout the entire OS, it is a feature that you get accustomed to and even might find yourself instinctively looking for on other devices. It's easy to get used to and convenient for the user — two markings of a great new feature.



Other phone makers, such as Huawei (with the P9, the Honor 8, and the Mate 9 last year, and more recently with the P10), are taking things even further by implementing more gestures into the fingerprint scanners. For example, you can scroll through your gallery by swiping vertically over the fingerprint scanner on the Mate 9, or get to your recents screen by swiping to the left on the P10.

One of the main advantages of this input method is that, no matter whether the scanner is placed up front or on the back of the phone, it is likely designed in such a way as to be easily reachable when holding the device with one hand. This means that you can easily perform gestures, no matter how big your phone is.

What we want to see now is more phones with support for a wider variety of fingerprint scanner gestures. Although current devices are somewhat limited in the number of actions that can be performed in this way, software engineers can easily come up with new ways of interacting with the interface via the fingerprint scanner if they put their minds to it. Imagine, for example, scrolling up and down a web page by just swiping over the scanner, or going back or forward by swiping left and right, or double tapping to switch between apps. There are certainly a lot of possibilities here and we are excited to see what developers come up with in the future.

And besides, even if you don't agree with some of the points we've made thus far, there's nothing to lose here, but a lot to gain. We are not saying we should be forced to use fingerprint gestures to control certain parts of a user interface, but we do think that they can be genuinely useful, especially on bigger devices. As long as fingerprint scanners are around, all smartphones should be capable of offering this type of gestures as an option.

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31 Comments

1. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

and the world comes full circle. its a modern adaptation of the trackball found on the original G1 and Mytouch.

13. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

I honestly think one of my favorite designs was the MyTouch 3G. I wish HTC would make a 5.0" blown up version of that phone.

25. gersont1000

Posts: 473; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

That was my first smartphone (Blackberry doesn't count) and I only have good memories of it. I loved using the front button as a trackpad!

16. bambamboogy02

Posts: 842; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

Give credit to Blackberry, with the side scroll wheel which was then converted into the trackball to trackpad.

17. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

your right. My mind completely blanked on that as I was just thinking of android devices. They were first with the track pad. And it worked darn well.

18. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You mean those things the PC mice already had?

27. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

@Techie Your point? That still doesn't mean that BlackBerry shouldn't get the credit for having a smartphone with it before most other smartphones in mobile, if not all.

33. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

And on the newest BB phones you can use the entire keyboard as a track pad. To me that is much better than feeling around on the back of your phone for the little fingerprint scanner.

2. darkkjedii

Posts: 31534; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I wonder if Apple will implement this in iOS 11. There're usually late to the game, but are known for putting some nice spins on things.

7. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Like screwing up Control Center in iOS10?

11. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

whats wrong with the control center?

24. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

The same thing that is wrong with the "setting" menu.

21. therealestmc

Posts: 679; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

Control center on iOS 10 is fine. Apple should make it better but as it stands it does what it's supposed to do.

29. vincelongman

Posts: 5746; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Control Center in iOS10 is fine Notifications on the other are horribly dated

4. abdoualgeria

Posts: 928; Member since: Jul 27, 2015

I had this featuren on my first blackberry bold .... It's a little different since the button on the blackberry wasn't fingerprint scanner

5. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Finger print gesture control? so...gesture control on a touch pad interface that also has a fingerprint scanner?

8. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Have you used a Huawei phone with a scanner? You are talking like you came from 2007.

10. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Its rather amusing you accuse me of something when I am explaining how it works on a component level, this not a new technology, it is the combination of two existing, a touch pad sensor, that detects touch location/direction and a fingerprint scanner? I'm pointing out that calling indicating it is 'new' invention only proves how little people know about electronics?

20. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Oh.....I actually though you were hearing about this tech first time in your life. Due to which you are asking about it with such big question marks, 'as if you were from 2007'. But it's good you are simplifying it. Keep up the good work!

6. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Jailbroken iPhones have it since iOS7 Once again it's Cydia that leads in innovation as a platform

12. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Wonder what app you are referring to, the closest thing I can recall was Touchy but that didn't support swiping. As far as I know, the TouchID sensor doesn't recognize swiping.

15. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

And the "Once again it's Cydia that leads in innovation as a platform" part is shockingly funny.

9. MANNIEB

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 28, 2017

They stole this from Motorola.

14. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

HTC had it too, probably before Motorola IIRC.

19. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

The position of the scanner should be thought out if this becomes main stream. Front vs back but at least in the center.

22. lyndon420

Posts: 6868; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I don't want a fingerprint scanner on my phone. If it becomes standard I'll definitely be putting tape over it just like my front facing camera.

23. monoke

Posts: 1193; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Always a great idea to have gesture features whether it be on fps , screen, side frame, bezel etc. So much more freedom in how can operate ur device.

26. JakeH

Posts: 89; Member since: May 01, 2014

Can you implement fingerprint gestures in any android phone with a finger print scanner?

31. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

only tap, double tap, and swipe (no directional swipe because hardware limitation)https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.superthomaslab.fingerprintgestures

28. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

I enjoyed using the swipe gestures on the fingerprint scanner when I had the Honor 5x. This is definitely something that all smartphones with fingerprint scanners should posses, imo.

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