Until now, the iPhone had a key hardware advantage over other smartphones: Its fingerprint sensor called TouchID was better and more accurate than anything else on the market.
Samsung just matched Apple with the fingerprint sensor on its new flagship phone, the Galaxy S 6.
Just like TouchID, all you have to do is place your finger on the sensor embedded in the Galaxy S 6’s home button and the phone will unlock without needing a passcode. You can store up to four fingerprints on the device.
In my review of the Galaxy S6, I found the new fingerprint sensor to work perfectly. I couldn’t trick it. It’s just as good as TouchID on the iPhone.
This is a big improvement over the fingerprint sensor Samsung used on last year’s Galaxy S5. That device required you to swipe your finger over the home button just right to unlock the phone. I had a lot of trouble with it when I reviewed the phone, as did just about every other reviewer.
The Galaxy S6’s fingerprint sensor will also be a key part of Samsung Pay, Samsung’s mobile payments platform that will launch this summer. Samsung Pay is very similar to Apple Pay, and you’ll need to confirm all payments with your fingerprint before it goes through.
Samsung told me that it didn’t develop the fingerprint sensor on its own, but licensed the technology from an unnamed supplier. Apple makes its own fingerprint sensors based on technology from Authentec, a company it bought in 2012 for over $US300 million.
There’s also hope for other phone manufacturers. Qualcomm, a company that specialises in making chips for mobile devices, has a new fingerprint sensor of its own that any hardware maker can use. It uses a special “sonar” technology to detect your fingerprint. That means it can work even if your finger is wet or dirty. It can also be embedded beneath metal or plastic.
Qualcomm’s fingerprint sensor should start showing up in phones by the end of 2015.