Two of the trendiest features in smartphones in 2019 are Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers. Sadly, both are crap at the moment and not worth spending your money on.
I love spanking new technology as much as the next guy. I probably love it more than most. After all, I have built my work and life around new tech. But many new tech are more of annoyances in the early stages than of any real value to users.
Let’s look at how Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers in the latest flagship smartphones are dropping the ball and making guinea pigs of all of us.
I read the account of a lady who successfully unlocked her brother’s Galaxy S10 Plus with her own face, though she does not resemble him.
I unlocked my brother's Galaxy S10+ with my face
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) March 9, 2019
But it isn’t a Samsung problem. The same problem plagues phones from a wide range of manufacturers. Over the last one year, I have read a number of stories in which a stranger is able to unlock one smartphone or the other with their face.
And as for Google’s 2019 Pixel 4 and 4 XL, the face unlock as been reported to work even when your eyes are closed. Which means that anyone can use it to unlock yoour phone while you are asleep, drugged or sedated, or knocked out in some other way. The bottomline is that such a thing isn’t good for your security.
Simply put, Face Unlock is still very unreliable and insecure. It leaves you open to the whims of anyone who dares to try to unlock your phone with it. Until the technology improves, chances are that they will succeed.
But remember that this article is about Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers. Just in case you are thinking that in-display fingerprint sensors are any better, they are not. I am not sorry to bring you the bad news.
I was reading a number of reviews of the Nokia 9 PureView, and a common denominator is that the in-display fingerprint scanner is horrible, barely working. One reviewer said he had to press harder several times to get it to unlock. Tom’s Guide calls it a finicky fingerprint reader.
But again, while many of those reviewers assert that the Nokia 9 PureView has the worst in-display fingerprint experience they have had, they all mention that the technology is not as fast or as consistent as the regular sensors we’ve come to know and love on our phones.
Whether it is on the Galaxy S10, Nokia 9 PureView, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Vivo X20 Plus, OnePlus 6T, or on Google Pixel 4, in-display fingerprint readers are crap.
Beta testing Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers
If you are going to pay top dollar for a high-end smartphone, the security features should work well. But what we have today are Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers that are still in teething stages. And those of us buying the latest high-end smartphones are the Guinea pigs used for beta testing.
I’d be happy to test for free or even get paid a small stipend, but to spend hundreds of thousands of naira to test new technology feels like a lot. Yet, there is no way out of it if you want to live on the cutting edge of technology.
I was having a conversation with IBK yesterday. He pointed out a key feature of Android Q that would mess with a number of apps he uses if released in the final build. He has chosen to stick with Android 7 Nougat smartphones for now. Living on the cutting edge can be so frustrating.
But back to Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint readers, if reliable security features are essential to you, you might want to stay away from 2019’s spanking new top end phones. I can imagine that no busy executive with a back-breaking schedule wants to dash in between meetings while struggling to unlock his phone.
There are scores of high-end phones available in the market with the good old fingerprint readers that work consistently and with accuracy.
Or just go ahead and buy those new phones anyway, then disable the Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint features in them, and use a good old password. It may be old school, but the password is still the most reliable security feature you can use on your phone. That is, if you are not one of those who use “password” or their middle name as their password.
Have you used Face Unlock and in-display fingerprint reader on any smartphone? What have your experiences with them been like?
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.