Sunday, Oct 26, 2014

Express web special: Comparing the iPhone 5S and HTC One Max fingerprint scanners

Written by Pranay Parab | New Delhi | Posted: December 18, 2013 10:55 am

Biometric authentication has been a part of countless science fiction films. Films such as Minority Report and James Bond series have shown fingerprints,retina scans or simply a person’s face being used to access restricted areas.

The transition from science fiction to reality is often not as smooth as one imagines. The first implementation of any new technology is full of bugs and often hard to use. Fingerprint scanners have gone through that phase. Over the years,many laptops have included these to provided an added layer of security,but they rarely worked as advertised. Those used in offices for attendance are often slow and unreliable. This year,two phones with fingerprint scanners hit the market – iPhone 5S and HTC One Max. Do these really work? Read on.

Apple iPhone 5S

Apple’s flagship phone has a fingerprint scanner,called Touch ID,on the home button. The placement is perfect as the home button is the most-used button on the iPhone. It is right under the screen,so unlocking the phone and using it feels like a fluid motion.

What’s cool: It takes less than a minute to let the device store the print of each finger — you can store up to five. Touch ID recognises the fingerprint almost instantly and once I got used to it,unlocking other phones felt cumbersome. Touch ID makes passwords,codes and patterns feel outdated. For those worried about fingerprint data being stolen,Apple says the data is stored on the device and not online. It can only be used to unlock the phone and while installing apps. If the fingerprint is not recognised,which happens often if your fingers are wet,then you can quickly key in the four-digit passcode.

What needs improvement: As of now,Touch ID can be used to unlock the phone and as a replacement for entering passwords while installing apps. I’d like to see system-wide implementation of this. There are instances when the Apple ID password is requested,such as when trying to review apps on the App Store. These should be linked to Touch ID. Providing third-party apps access to fingerprint data may not be what Apple wants to do,but it would be wonderful if apps such as Dropbox,iMessage,Mail and WhatsApp could be locked using Touch ID.

There are some bugs that need to be ironed out on Touch ID. During tests,once a week or so,Touch ID failed to activate no matter which finger I used to unlock it. I found a workaround by pressing the home button to activate Siri and then pressing the button again. After that it recognised the fingerprint without fail. This appears to be a software issue. Some users have complained that Touch ID stops working after a month or so of use,as noted in this BGR report. For them a software reset fixed the issue.

HTC One Max

HTC One Max has a fingerprint scanner on the back panel,under the camera. The placement is far from ideal as the scanner is difficult to access and users cannot see it while trying to unlock the phone. This is bound continued…

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