With TouchID, Apple gives competitors the finger


With the recent release of the GS5, I think it’s important to look back on its roots. Remember where it came from. Reflect on where it is going. No, I’m not talking about the entire device, just that stupid little thing on the bottom of it. That’s right, the fingerprint scanner. The reason we’re looking at the fingerprint scanner is, well, it’s kind of ridiculous in a Samsungy kind of way.

The interesting part about that little button is not the fact that Samsung decided to put a fingerprint scanner on its flagship phone. I mean really, if you look at the progression of devices and features that have rolled out of Korea for the past few years, it really was inevitable. I mean seriously – a heart beat monitor next to the camera? In the wide world of Samsung wackiness a fingerprint scanner isn’t anywhere close to a heart monitor of the back of a device the size of a surf board.

Change of plans

But, I like to think that Apple really accelerated Samsung’s fingerprint scanning schedule with the debut of TouchID on the iPhone 5S. It’s fun to think of what feature might have been tabled in favor of developing a fingerprint scanner as a response to arguably Samsung’s biggest competitor. I guess the detachable metal detector will have to wait until the GS6, eh?

That is the coup that Apple pulled off when it released TouchID just a scant six months ago. We’ve already seen one really bad iteration of the fingerprint reader on the HTC One Max, and now comes a second reader on the GS5 which is in a much better position, but reportedly works just as badly as the HTC version.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t come here to wave my Apple flag and demand you all bow to the great and mighty Cook and Company. I’m not even a very big fan of the whole fingerprint reader concept. I guess it’s nice to not have to put in your password in lieu of the scanner. It adds a layer of protection that many probably would not otherwise bother with. I have said my peace about the technology, so we’ll leave it at that.

Desire rules

But the fact of the matter is, people want it. At least people are perceived to want it. How do we know this? Because HTC and Samsung have both jumped onto the bandwagon with this feature. There is demand, and good for Apple for creating/recognizing that demand. I will also give props to Apple for executing it in arguably the most elegant and intuitive way. Kudos Apple.

The home button is where you’re pressing the phone anyway right? Samsung tried to make this same play except Apple’s method is a touch, while Samsung’s is a swipe. As Michael Fisher says in his review, in the battle of gravity versus grip, gravity tends to win. What HTC did, well, let’s just not talk about what HTC did, hmm kay?

The bitten fruit two-step

What’s more, Apple managed to do two things at once – at the same time it made its own devices “cooler” it made its competitors offerings that much more lame. Lame in the “not cool sense” and also in the “hobbled” sense. Both the HTC One Max and the Galaxy S5 now are saddled with these cobbled together retreads of the concept Apple brought to market. Of course, Apple couldn’t have predicted how well Samsung and HTC would have played into its hands. We’re going to go ahead and call that a bonus.

So overall it’s a win for the bitten fruit and a simultaneous loss for the competitors, much like a caught ball in dodgeball. One guy goes off, one guy comes back on and it’s a whole new ball game. I’m not saying a fingerprint scanner is a game changer, not by any stretch. To many, it’s a gimmick. But there’s a difference between a well-executed gimmick and a poorly executed one. One of them gets mean editorials written about them. I’ll let you guess which.

Sound off!

Maybe I’m alone here, so I’m going to call out to you and ask you a few questions. Are you a fingerprint-scanning believer, or is it just another gimmick to you? If it’s a gimmick, do you care how well or badly it’s executed? Finally, what “feature” do you think Samsung put on the back burner to get its fingerprint scanner on the GS5? A detachable metal detector? Something else? Be creative!

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!