Should we even be surprised at this point? Time and time again, smartphones roll off the assembly line with all these cool features baked-in, and then carriers go and get uppity about them for one reason or another, and leverage the largely undeserved power they hold over OEMs to force the deactivation of specific abilities. It’s a struggle we’ve been following for years, seeing casualties like NFC payments or unlockable bootloaders get hit along the way. The latest incidents to come to our attention have affected Samsung’s Galaxy S5, and earlier this week we talked about how multiple US carriers were delivering the phone with its download booster feature absent. It turns out the GS5 disappointments are far from over, and today we hear about yet another way carriers are stripping features from the phone, with the discovery that the Verizon GS5 doesn’t support using the phone’s fingerprint scanner to authorize PayPal transactions.
On most Galaxy S5 handsets, the “Pay with PayPal” option shows up under the phone’s settings menu for the fingerprint scanner. On the Verizon edition: no such option.
There’s also an app called the NNL Fingerprint Passport that Samsung requires GS5 owners to download from its app store to enable this PayPal functionality, and while other GS5 models have no issues downloading, installing, and getting set up, the Verizon GS5 returns an error explaining that the app isn’t compatible with the phone.
Between this and those previous efforts to kill Google Wallet (which, it’s worth mentioning, actually works without issue on the VZW GS5, probably due to Google’s work on distancing the service from reliance on a phone’s hardware secure element), we’re noticing a disturbing trend of carriers interfering with phone functionality any time there are monetary transactions on the line.
Like with the download booster issue, we’ve reached out to Verizon for comment, and will update this post if the carrier responds.
Update: Verizon has responded, and all it has to say is that the ability for PayPal to use the GS5′s scanner is “a feature not available on our device at launch but we are evaluating.”