The Rumored Galaxy S5 Fingerprint Sensor Sounds Like Trouble

Unlocking the phone may require some careful swiping.

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It’s pretty much a given that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will include a fingerprint sensor, with numerous sources making that claim. Now we have a sense of how it’ll work.

A new report by SamMobile says the fingerprint sensor will be built into the Galaxy S5’s home button, much like the TouchID sensor on the iPhone 5S. But unlike Apple’s implementation, using Samsung’s sensor won’t be as simple as holding your thumb on the button:

The sensor itself works in a swipe manner, which means that you would need to swipe the entire pad of your finger, from base to tip, across the home key to register your fingerprint properly. Also, you would need to keep your finger flat against the home key and swipe at a moderate speed or else it won’t recognise your fingerprint. The fingerprint sensor is sensitive to moisture, as well. So, don’t try to use it with wet fingers because it will, literally, give you an error and tell you to dry your fingers first.

That sounds like a lot of potential points of failure. The reason to have a fingerprint sensor is to add security without the extra effort. If registering a fingerprint requires a careful, deliberate swipe, it’s not much better than using a lock screen pattern or PIN. Other companies have tried swipe-based sensors on smartphones before, and it’s never worked well. (Even Apple’s sensor, widely seen as the best, isn’t perfect.)

We’ll also have to see how securely Samsung stores fingerprint data on the device, and whether actual fingerprints are being stored. SamMobile claims that as you swipe over the sensor, a “real-time image of your fingerprint” appears on the display. Contrast that to the iPhone 5S, which doesn’t store actual fingerprint images on the device, and you’d think privacy advocates and grandstanding lawmakers would get more riled up with Samsung than they did with Apple. (They probably won’t.)

Still, some rumored aspects Samsung’s approach sound interesting:

You will be able to verify your Samsung account using your fingerprint and will also be able to sign into different websites, without needing to enter your username or password ever again.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Apple will extend TouchID to third-party apps or websites, but it hasn’t happened yet. It looks like Samsung is trying to get there first, at least for websites.

A separate report by Bloomberg has some more rumored details on the Galaxy S5, claiming it’ll have a 5.2-inch screen and a sharper (likely 2560-by-1440 resolution) display. One theory holds that Samsung is building two versions of the Galaxy S5, including one with just a 1080p display, but Bloomberg’s story doesn’t mention that possibility.

Check out our Galaxy S5 rumor roundup for more on what we might see in Samsung’s next flagship phone.