Beyond touch id:where mobile fingerprint scanners are headed

pic::HTC One Max’s Finger Print scanner is on the back.

LAS VEGAS:

Apple isn’t the only one looking to shove a fingerprint sensor onto its smartphone.

There will be several high-profile smartphones that will include fingerprint scanners, according to Michael Maia, vice president of sales for the biometric division of touchscreen and touchpad

company Synaptics. Its product will ship in the first quarter, and more phones should come out in the second half, he said.

Fingerprint recognition technology hit mainstream awareness when Apple decided to make it its marquee feature on the iphone5s. Pretty soon, millions of people were putting their finger on the home button to unlock their phone.

Now, other companies are looking to add the same feature to their own flagship smartphone.

The HTC OneMAX was the first to follow the iPhone 5S to include a fingerprint sensor, which was supplied by Validity, the fingerprint ID company that Synaptics purchased last year. Like previous fingerprint ID systems, the HTC One Max required a person to swipe down with their finger to unlock the phone.

It’s similar to the thin fingerprint sensor found in laptops. Validity had virtually the entire share of that market and continues to support PCs under Synaptics.

In contrast, Apple used a different technology from Authentec, which it acquired in July 2012. Rather than swipe, a person just has to place their finger on the home screen, where it is scanned and recognized. Analysts have noted that the placement of the scanner on the home button, a natural place for a finger to rest, makes it easier for consumers to warm up to it.

The HTC One Max’s sensor is on the back, and Maia said a lot of smartphones with a fingerprint sensor would likely include them somewhere on the back. He noted that Apple has the luxury of placing it on its physical home key,while many phones running Android  or Windows phone

lack the space on the front of the phone. Either the phone has capacity touchscreen buttons, or the bezel around the phone is too small to allow for a physical key.

The Holy Grail, Maia said, is to get the fingerprint scanner embedded under the glass, negating the need for a physical scanner. But he noted that was likely still far away — certainly more than a year from now.

Meanwhile, Synaptics is working to create different versions for different handset makers looking to stand out. Unfortunately, Maia wouldn’t comment on which vendors were looking at his technology.

At least one big player, Samsung Electronics, had looked at the technology. Samsung initially planned to include a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note3, people familiar with the device told CNET, which would have beaten Apple’s iPhone 5S with the feature. However, Samsung scrapped the plan before the device’s September unveiling because the technology proved to be unreliable and complicated, the people said.

Samsung could be including fingerprint-reading technology, but the latest word is that the company may use an iris-scanner instead.

Apple wasn’t the first to use a fingerprint scanner either. Motorola, before getting absorbed by Google, came out with the Atrix, the first phone with a fingerprint scanner embedded on the top of the device. It used technology made by Authentec, although it was clunky and also used the swipe method.

Beyond biometrics, Synapsis showed off a few prototypes of laptop keyboards with built-in capacity sensors beneath them. Allowing you to do gesture controls by swiping across keys, or lighting up the keys just by touching them. The company said laptops with this feature might come during the holidays.


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Samsung Galaxy S5 may launch in April with iris-scanning feature

samsung-iris-scanner-rumour-635.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S5 is a much-anticipated device, and the speculation around it is endless. However, in a Bloomberg News interview published on Thursday, Samsung’s mobile executive VP, Lee Young-hee, outlined broad plans for the company’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the next iteration of the Galaxy Note phablet as well as the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Speaking about the launch date of the Galaxy S5, and the next iteration of the Galaxy Gear, Young-hee was quoted as saying, “We’ve been announcing our first flagship model in the first half of each year, around March and April, and we are still targeting for release around that time. When we release our S5 device, you can also expect a Gear successor with more advanced functions, and the bulky design will also be improved.”

The launch of the Galaxy Gear alongside the Galaxy S5 was rumoured as far back as November. However, the launch date seems to contradict what another Samsung executive is reported to have said recently. Samsung Electronics Vice President of Design Team Dong-hoon Chang had apparently said that talk of a Galaxy S5 launch around MWC 2014 was “about right”, so could we see a February unveiling at MWC, followed by a launch in March-April? It’s certainly possible.

Rumours of the eye-scanning feature, which we’ve reported before, were also acknowledged by Young-hee, who said: “Many people are fanatical about iris recognition technology.” Young-hee also said the company was considering the inclusion of iris-scanning technology in the Galaxy S5, to take on Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint-scanning biometric authentication feature, launched with the iPhone 5s.

Interestingly, Young-hee in the interview acknowledged the slow adoption of the Galaxy S4, saying “it’s partly true that consumers couldn’t really feel much difference between the two products (Galaxy S IIIand Galaxy S4) from the physical perspective, so the market reaction wasn’t as big.”

In this context, speaking about plans for the Galaxy S5, Young-hee added: “For the S5, we will go back to the basics. Mostly, it’s about the display and the feel of the cover.”

Describing plans for the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy Note phablet, Young-hee said a three-sided display was under consideration, one that would enable users to be able to read from a sharper angle. He added that the next Galaxy Note will be released, as always, in the second half of the year, and be targeted at consumers who want “more professional use and tend to be willing to pay more for handsets.”

When elaborating about Samsung’s plans for the future of the wearable device segment, Young-hee said that health-care related functions will be a very important part of next-generation wearables like the Galaxy Gear.

LG G Flex: First impressions

LG-G-Flex-front-panel-635.jpg LG finally introduced its first curved display smartphone in India, the G Flex, at an event in New Delhi. Indian consumers will have to wait till next year to get their hands on the device, as the G Flex will be available in India only in February 2014. We got a chance to play with the LG G Flex at the event however, and sum up our first impressions below. When we first held the G Flex in our hands, we were definitely a bit taken aback by its ergonomic curved design, which definitely is the device’s USP. The G Flex is curved on its horizontal axis which gives the device’s top and bottom edges a curl shape. LG-G-Flex-front-side-profile-635.jpg The biggest perceived advantage of the G Flex’s curve in our limited period usage, is while talking on the device – the design definitely better hugs your face, much like an old landline phone. In terms of gripping, the curve also helps to comfortably hold the device, but the rear is made of plastic, so it can also slip out during long usage. When compared to some of its close competitors like HTC One Max and the Galaxy Mega 6.3, the G Flex (160.5×81.6×8.7mm) is better to hold and move around thanks to the curve design. Next big thing which is very much noticeable in the G Flex is its size, the 6-inch display does puts it in the phablet category and does looks like a large device in hands. Notably, we were unable to easily use the G Flex with one hand, as we found it difficult to stretch our thumb across the device. When talking about phablets, we still believe that Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 (151.2×79.2×8.3mm) and Sony’sXperia Z Ultra (179.4×92.2×6.5mm) were better in terms of daily usage because of a more lightweight and sleeker profile. At the event, we were told that the G Flex can actually ‘flex’ until it’s totally flat, and one of the company representatives even claimed that the South Korean manufacturer has tested the flexibility of the G Flex up to 100 times with about 40 kilograms of weight putting on the device without damaging the G Flex’s screen. Let’s say in the case, when accidentally sitting on the G Flex. While we couldn’t test it with 40 kilograms of weight, we did press the curve of the G Flex, and it did stretch to be flat. While the display didn’t crack, it’s not really advisable to do this on a daily basis. LG-G-Flex-rear-panel-635.jpg Following closely on the lines of LG’s current flagship smartphone, the LG G2, G Flex also features rear physical keys for power and volume controls. LG has equipped the LED light on the rear power key which comes handy for notifications and while taking a selfie. The keys are metallic and offer good tactile feedback, very much like the LG G2. The volume-up button also doubles up as a shortcut key to launch the Quickmemo app on long press and the volume-down button acts as a camera shortcut key on long press when the phone is locked. The G Flex also includes a number of ports around the edges including the 3.5mm audio jack and the charging port that sits at the bottom panel, while the micro-SIM card slot sits at the left panel of the G Flex. The rear panel includes the primary 13-megapixel camera with an LED flash, which is accompanied by an IR Blaster. It would be unfair to end the design part without talking about G Flex’s self-healing back that has been creating a buzz worldwide. When we wanted to test the self-healing capability of the G Flex, we were sure we needed a scratchy material; unfortunately we didn’t carry a knife so we tried our key chain to rub the rear panel and gave it a surface level scratch which was very much visible initially. After some time, we noticed that the scratches were reduced but not completely eliminated. While looking the G Flex from a certain angle, it looked that the scratches were gone, although it was pretty much noticeable. However, we must confess we were impressed and believe that the G Flex can easily handle day-to-day bruises. Coming to the hardware of the G Flex, it is powered by a quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) processor with an Adreno 330 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. The G Flex easily handled multitasking with ease, and the apps opened and closed instantaneously. Performance wise, the G Flex fared well in our limited testing. The G Flex sports a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. During our usage, the camera app opened instantly and did click at good speed without any shutter lag. The G Flex is powered by a 3,500mAh battery and weighs 177 grams. The LG G Flex comes with 32GB inbuilt storage, which is non-expandable. The LG G Flex runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which is a disappointment as we expected LG to ship Android 4.3, the most recent iteration of the OS with the phone. However, with LG finally revealing plans for rolling out the Android 4.4 KitKat update for the flagship smartphone, the G2, we expect that the G Flex will also get the KitKat treatment soon. lg-g-flex-front-sides-635.jpg On the software department, the G Flex borrows many things from the G2. The company has added the same LG G2 UI layer on top of the G Flex, majorly changing the look and feel of the interface and enabling users to customise the phone according to their liking. The LG G Flex also features the KnockON, which is LG’s version of double tap to unlock and even lock the smartphone. In our limited testing, we found that at times while trying to unlock the phone it didn’t register our taps. In fact, it was annoying at times. Other features on the G Flex include Slide Aside which is a way to multitask by moving between three apps at once via a three-finger swipe gesture; Guest mode, which allows you to create a guest mode with pre-selected apps for times when your friends or family want to use your phone; Dual Window, which divides the screen into two panels for multitasking and QuickTheatre that gives direct access to gallery, videos and YouTube icons.

LG G Flex detailed specifications

General
Release date October 2013
Form factor Touchscreen
Dimensions (mm) 160.50 x 81.60 x 8.70
Weight (g) 177.00
Battery capacity (mAh) 3500
Removable battery No
Colours Titan Silver
SAR value NA
Display
Screen size (inches) 6.00
Touchscreen Yes
Touchscreen type Capacitive
Resolution 720×1280 pixels
Hardware
Processor 2.2GHz  quad-core
Processor make Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
RAM 2GB
Internal storage 32GB
Camera
Rear camera 13-megapixel
Flash Yes
Front camera 2.1-megapixel
Software
Operating System Android 4.2
Java support No
Browser supports Flash No
Connectivity
Wi-Fi Yes
Wi-Fi standards supported 802.11 a/ b/ g/ n/ ac
GPS No
Bluetooth Yes, v 4.00
NFC Yes
Infrared No
DLNA No
Wi-Fi Direct No
MHL Out No
HDMI No
Headphones 3.5mm
FM No
USB Micro-USB
Charging via Micro-USB Yes
Proprietary charging connector No
Proprietary data connector No
Number of SIMs 1
SIM Type Micro-SIM
GSM/ CDMA GSM
2G frequencies supported NA
3G Yes
3G frequencies supported NA
Sensors
Compass/ Magnetometer No
Proximity sensor No
Accelerometer No
Ambient light sensor No
Gyroscope No
Barometer No
Temperature sensor No

Why Android smartphones consume more data

 

Android smartphones are kind of like Hummers. Reminiscent of the oversize, gas-guzzling SUV’s, Androids have the biggest screens and tend to use much more data than other types of smartphones, including iPhones. And that higher data usage could rack up heftier phone bills.

So why does Android use more data? The reasons are multifold. The most obvious is that Android phones tend to have the largest screens, so they download bigger files and video with more pixels, says Chetan Sharma , a telecom analyst.

Another factor is that Android is less efficient at managing apps than Apple’s iOS. For instance, multiple Android apps may be running in the background with things like location data being collected, he said.

Also, Android users typically don’t upgrade their operating systems as frequently as iOS users, so their smartphones may not receive fixes improving data management, he said.

Jan Dawson, an independent telecom analyst who previously worked for Ovum, noted that the data traffic numbers may also reflect the profiles of the people who choose Android versus those who choose iPhones. People with larger Android phones are more likely to skip buying a tablet, whereas iPhone owners may be buying iPads and consuming a lot of content there.