As our smartphones evolve to get better and (presumably) more secure, we’ve had a couple of interesting ways to boost the level of security we have over our precious phones. There have been PINs, passwords, pattern locks, facial recognition, iris scanners, and recently we’ve had a surge in popularity of fingerprint scanners.
Fingerprint scanners are still a relatively new concept that have been rolling out to more and more phones, especially over the past year. Apple was the first to popularize this security feature, dubbed “TouchID”, with the iPhone 5s back in 2013, which received a fairly positive reaction for its implementation. At the same time, many were left wondering just how secure, or how well, a fingerprint scanner would actually work on a phone.
When I got my iPhone 5s two years ago, it took me a long time to even consider using the fingerprint scanner. I was used to entering a 4-digit PIN, and I felt confident enough in my ability to use the Find My iPhone feature to shut down any potential thieves should my phone (and information) ever fall into the wrong hands. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about my security at the time; I didn’t really think that a fingerprint scanner would add much value.
At some point, though, I got curious. I decided to try out the fingerprint scanner to see how well it worked (or not), and boy was I upset when I realized how much I had missed out.
Well, honestly, I guess I wasn’t really missing out on much in the grand scheme of things. I don’t feel inherently more secure simply by using TouchID. However, I did really enjoy how easy it was to unlock my phone from that point on. With a phone as small as the iPhone 5s, it was very easy for me to unlock my phone with just one hand without much shifting. The ease of use of the fingerprint scanner was awesome, and I wish I had started to use it earlier.
I’ve continued to use TouchID with my iPhone 6, and only recently did I realize just how accustomed to it I had become when I switched to the Note 5 and hadn’t yet set up the fingerprint scanner. For the first few days I had been using the simple “Swipe to Unlock” method, which has actually become somewhat of a hassle when you compare it to unlocking via fingerprint sensor. Habitually I would place my finger over the home button, only to realize that nothing would happen because I hadn’t set it up yet. Once I set up my fingerprint sensor on the Note 5, things were already feeling a little more comfortable for me.
I like fingerprint scanners for their convenience, not for their security. There have been numerous concerns over whether fingerprint scanners are secure or not. Aside from the unlikely scenario that somebody is going to go through the trouble of lifting your prints from the scanner, I think the most glaring issue with fingerprint sensors right now is that they aren’t guaranteed to always work. Most manufacturers require a “fallback” PIN or password that grants access in the case that the fingerprint scanner fails (which they frequently do). Since the password is tied to the fingerprint (you can gain access to a phone with just the password and not the fingerprint) it really is a matter of convenience with security as an afterthought.
And, admittedly, it’s a convenience that I’ve grown to prefer. The simple act of placing my thumb over a scanner and unlocking my phone has become second nature to me. It just so happens that there is the added bonus of it being somewhat secure (or at least more secure than if one wasn’t to use a passcode at all).
Readers, what are your thoughts on fingerprint scanners? Are they must-haves in your smartphone these days, or have you yet to use one?