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The eyes have it: is the Galaxy S8 fingerprint sensor designed with discomfort in mind?


Last updated: February 7th, 2017 at 16:59 UTC+02:00

Back when Samsung announced the new iris scanner in the Galaxy Note 7, the Korean giant said it had been working on it for 5 years straight. We’d seen very little information about the iris scanner, so the company’s announcement was a pleasant surprise. What Samsung does to one high-end Galaxy S phone, however, often finds its way to the other (the S Pen excepted, though that could change this time around), so we have it on good authority that the iris scanner will arrive in the Galaxy S8.

Well, according to leaked photos of the next “Galaxy” (or, should I say, Galaxies, plural), Samsung intends to push its iris scanner to the forefront of the user experience, sidelining the fingerprint sensor for some who preferred their clicky home button and fingerprint authentication all in one. Leaked photos show that Samsung will reposition the fingerprint sensor from the bottom bezel of the front display to the back cover, to the right of the back camera (with the flash to the back camera’s left). Official Galaxy S8 cases confirm the same, so it seems to be a done deal at this point.

The decision to move the fingerprint sensor does bring mixed reaction, though. There are some who find the front-mounted home button and fingerprint sensor to be more intuitive and easy to use. Placing the fingerprint sensor on the back of the Galaxy S8 isn’t necessarily a decision made in the name of intuitiveness.

There are those who’ve never liked the front-mounted fingerprint sensor, so a back-mounted sensor allows these individuals to have more front-display real estate. Additionally, back-mounted fingerprint sensors are growing in popularity, with high-end smartphones such as the LG V20, Google Pixel and Pixel XL, along with veteran phones such as the Huawei Nexus 6P utilizing the same.

At the same time, however, advocates of the fingerprint sensor’s traditional location would argue against what seems to be an awkwardly-placed sensor on the back cover. After all, Samsung is not placing the sensor in the middle of the back cover, as has been the case with a majority of phone makers that opt for a back sensor; instead, Samsung is placing the sensor adjacent to the back camera, requiring users to reach up for it instead of having it accessible where your fingers touch the back cover.

With the re-positioning of the fingerprint sensor, and the work placed into the iris scanner, Samsung could be encouraging users to go with the company’s own vision (pun intended) on the matter: ditch the fingerprint sensor and adopt the iris scanner with your eyes wide open.

I personally think that fingerprint scanners are problematic on the back cover because users cannot see their finger and have to place it on the sensor “hoping” they get it right. Front-mounted sensors have always been easier to use in that regard because you can automatically see where your finger is placed on the home button – no extra steps needed.

For those who want their home button back and don’t see themselves adopting the iris scanner in the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, let me encourage you to give it a try before you become frustrated with Samsung’s new sensor placement. The iris scanner, like the fingerprint sensor, has its share of flaws, such as its quirky operation in certain lowlight settings, not to mention the 20cm distance from the human eye or the 25-35cm distance for the visually challenged who wear either glasses or contacts.

In our Galaxy Note 7 review, though, I found the iris scanner so effective that Samsung’s awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S8 gives me yet another excuse to use the iris scanner exclusively. Your mileage (or vision, rather) may vary.

So, yes, the fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S8 is awkwardly placed, but I have a feeling Samsung has done this by design. If there’s any new biometric form that can change your mind about the traditional home button/fingerprint sensor setup, though, the answer lies in your vision. The eyes just might have it.

Opinion Galaxy S8 PlusIris ScannerSamsung Galaxy S8
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