Android struggled with Fingerprint sensors for a whole year or so, but finally, the Fingerprint sensor is a mainstream feature available across phones selling in all price ranges, and surprisingly most of them work quite efficiently. After experiencing the convenience, using a phone which is missing this simple biometric unlock feels archaic.
While the debate on whether fingerprint sensors are actually safer ensues, many smartphone makers and developers are trying to use it for more than simply unlocking your phone. Let’s discuss.
Almost everyone is using it as selfie shutter
Phones with rear-mounted fingerprint sensors are increasingly becoming commonplace. Since this is where your index finger naturally rests, it’s very natural to tap it and click selfies. With phones getting bigger, it is never simple to hold your phone at 90 degrees at a distance and tap the shutter button all using just one hand. In our opinion, it works better than other desperate attempts like ‘smile to unlock’, Bluetooth selfie remotes or even selfie timer, and you will be habituated to it in no time.
Almost all handsets with rear-mounted fingerprint sensors use it. Consider one of the eternal selfie problem resolved.
Coolpad allows you to lock Individual apps
Coolpad Note 3 and it’s Lite variant owe their popularity to the presence of fingerprint sensor that works surprisingly well. The Cool UI, which is overloaded with features you might never use (or use just once for the heck of it) thoughtfully implements the fingerprint sensor.
You can lock individual apps. This way, you can share passcode with a friend/ family, and still maintain your privacy by restricting access to apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, et al holding sensitive, personal data.
And there are fingerprint gestures
OEMs like Honor and Lenovo are a bit more generous. The K4 Note and Honor 5X allow you to configure tap and long tap on fingerprint sensor as back, home or recent apps key. The Honor 5X goes a bit further and allows you program swipe up and swipe down actions to pull recent apps panel and notification shade respectively.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as intended. Since all such secondary and tertiary fingerprint scanner actions don’t actually scan your fingerprint (only detect touches), they get fired accidentally more often than you would want them to. That results in haphazard random navigations to unwanted places, which quickly become irritating.
What about the Fingerprint API in Marshmallow?
Generally speaking, OEM fingerprint sensors can’t be accessed by apps other than system apps (Samsung has an API for its devices which some third party apps use). This means, the features we talked about in this article so far can’t be availed by other handset owners using third party apps. Well, Android Marshmallow has a fingerprint API that shall change things for the better.
We already have apps in Playstore which allow Marshmallow users to unlock them individually using the fingerprint sensor (the same functionality Coolpad is offering), to authenticate payments, and to lock vaults which save all your passwords in one place.
Apps like Telegram can also be configured to accept fingerprint scan as account log-in password. Smart launcher 3 hides apps which will be visible only if you unlock using your fingerprint. Apps like Last pass will allow you to auto-fill passwords for various accounts just by fingerprint authentication (Very cool to use). And then there are apps like Nine and Robinhood which use fingerprint sensor for authentication.
What other apps can we expect in future?
Basically, the Marshmallow API will allow developers to fit in fingerprint authentication in their apps as security checkpoints. Apps will ask for your fingerprint and if it matches, perform a pre-defined action.
The API also allows app to call for a re-authentication. For instance, if your Paytm app is idle for 5 minutes, it could ask you to re-authenticate with a fingerprint sensor tap before proceeding with a recharge or payment. If you just unlocked the phone, the process would be bypassed.
Authentication could be used in numerous possible ways which are beyond our imagination, but we will see more of such cool apps when Marshmallow adoption catches pace and it owns a respectable piece of Android pie.
More importantly, these features will be universal and you will be able to make use of them irrespective of what brand of phone you own.
Some Fingerprint Sensor Apps That You Can Use
Note: This article has been updated on February 15, 2017.