We’re still at a stage where rumors are hit or miss regarding the Samsung Galaxy S9. For the most part, the leaks and details making their way around the internet concern small specification improvements. There aren’t too many design adjustments being talked about, and the phone is expected to represent a fairly incremental shift up from the S8. But one feature that is getting a decent amount of attention is the possible updated fingerprint scanner.
One of the most widely criticized aspects of the Galaxy S8 was the bizarre placement of its own fingerprint sensor. It was situated next to the camera lens on the back of the phone, in a location that’s far from intuitive and not even convenient once you get used to it. It’s no surprise that Samsung looks to be trying to fix this small but bothersome issue with the S9. Some rumors are revolving around the idea of a fingerprint sensor bundled into the smartphone’s screen. This technology has been introduced by Qualcomm (and is being called Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensors), and should be available by the time the S9 is ready to ship. Incidentally, there are also rumors that the iPhone 8 (or possibly iPhone X, if that’s the name the company winds up going with) may also go digital with its sensor.
But should Samsung really bother with this kind of upgrade? Let’s consider some of the factors.
It Fixes A Problem
Customers appreciate it when big tech companies realize and act on their own imperfections. While it likely wasn’t a deal breaker for too many users, the inconveniently placed sensor on the Galaxy S8 was a real design flaw. The fact that Samsung seems to have prioritized fixing it can go a long way. This alone could lead many to breathe a sigh of relief when they first see or handle the S9. Even if it’s a small feature compared to spec advancements or more dramatic design changes, it could be the thing that nudges a lot of people toward upgrading.
There Are Increased Security Concerns
In some ways, an ID-related upgrade is a smart move for any smartphone company. This is especially true given the increasing security concerns for people using mobile devices. It’s long been the case that we store a lot of personal information, passwords, and more on our phones so security has always been a priority. In recent years we’ve opened ourselves up to even more vulnerabilities through our smartphones.
The clearest example of this change is the emergence of phone-based payment systems, which are becoming more popular in everyday use. We all remember the much heralded unveiling of Apple Pay, but other tech and software providers have come out with their own similar systems. People are also using services like Venmo and Square more frequently to send funds to one another, and even Bitcoin wallets are becoming more useful. Add it all up, and many of us have several different apps that provide access to our bank accounts and other payment methods. It’s vital to keep these secure not just through passwords but with phone access in general.
Entertainment has also increased our need for security. Particularly in gaming, we tend to link payment methods directly to the apps we use. In some cases that just means games utilizing in-app purchases. We’ve also seen other types of gaming expand. As online games have gone mobile, players all around the world began to experience safe, real money gaming, particularly in the online casino industry, from their phones and other mobile devices. These games can involve bigger sums than the average app, and it’s important that personal access to them remains private and secure.
But Is It Actually More Secure?
Everything above points to the idea of an adjustment to the fingerprint sensor being a strong move for Samsung. This is something that should please loyal and disappointed consumers alike. It’s also something that fits into the perception that we’re always in need of better mobile security. These should be easy selling points for Samsung once the Galaxy S9 is ready to hit the market. However, they could also be based on a fundamental misconception.
That misconception is that fingerprint scanners are more secure than ordinary security codes. Some people are beginning to suggest that might not be the case. Fingerprint sensors are capable of messing up and giving access to the wrong print (though this is rare), and technology meant to fool sensors has gotten more secure. It’s possible to create a “universal” print that can unlock any phone, whereas guessing a code can be a little more complicated. This may in fact be one reason we’re starting to see both Samsung and Apple move somewhat subtly toward retina scanners.
At the end of the day, the security question is an open one, but the convenience of a better way to unlock a phone will be a real benefit for Samsung users. This could well be a strong selling point for the S9, though if it’s the main differentiating feature, Samsung may end up wishing it had something a little more exciting.
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