Feature Friday: Fingerprint Phone Access

One of the things that I was sad about losing as I moved from iPhone to the Nexus 6P was the ability to unlock my phone with my thumb.

But it turns out that the Nexus 6P also has fingerprint phone access. It’s not a thumb on the home button, it’s your index finger on the upper back of the device.

So I’ve been using the Nexus 6P for about a week now and I have to say that the index finger on the back of the phone is in many ways a more natural place for the fingerprint scan. It’s easier when you have the phone in your hand than reaching over with your thumb.

There are a few situations where the back of the phone is less desirable, most notably when the phone is lying on a table. And I haven’t yet purchased a case for my phone but I wonder if the Nexus 6P cases have an opening for the fingerprint scan. I would hope they do.

If your phone doesn’t have a fingerprint scan device for unlocking your phone and your high security apps, then you should really get one that does and check it out. It’s a great feature.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Apparently, hackers could steal your fingerprint, and in some states, police has the right to force you to unlock your phone to inspect its contents (without a warrant) if it’s secured via fingerprint, and not a password. Your fingerprint belongs to the government, and you don’t have a right to keep it away from them.http://blogs.findlaw.com/bl…How about unlocking via iris scan? Samsung has that.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      If you know how it works well enough you can trigger three fails of the TouchID pretty easily on purpose and then it’ll fail over to password only mode.

      1. William Mougayar

        then the cop might say, – well it’s not yours then, so we confiscate it. or the smart one will hold your finger and make you do it right.

        1. LE

          If you are that worried about an event like this then just keep and pay for two cell phones. [1] One is the sacrificial lamb phone and the other is what you keep all of your illegal things on (since I assume that is why people are so bothered by this happening).[1] A burner phone or even just another cell phone and number.

    2. LE

      How about unlocking via iris scan?I was thinking about that. I don’t think you even need to scan an iris you should be able to scan a person’s face and determine if it’s a face or a photo/video (and not allow access in that case). And this should work (have enough data stored) that even if your appearance changes from day to day it would still know who you are. And it doesn’t need to be perfect either.I think the majority of people would be ok with good enough security for something like this for day to day use also. I would. I am not worried about the edge cases of breaking access with my phone I want a good easy unlocking experience. If they weren’t they could turn on legacy access method (just like with a longer passcode than 4 digits on iphone if you want it).

    3. rick gregory

      When is the last time any of us were in a police interrogation room? This scenario is always brought up and in some countries or for some people it’s a valid concern, but for the vast majority of phone users it’s just not.If someone is worried about it then turn Touch ID off and use an alpha numeric passcode. Boom, done.

      1. William Mougayar

        The article I referenced was about the US.

      2. obarthelemy

        It’s not just the police but about everyone determined enough to make a mold of a fingerprint, which seems easy enough, from ex/crazy girlfriend, business competitors, thieves, hackers…Admittedly, 99% of us are safe from those. But the remaining 1%… (not *that* 1%, though some overlap probably ^^)

  2. LIAD

    6P sensor position works well for the most part and is super fast.Having to pick it up to unlock when on table was cumbersome though.Experiment with the smart lock setting.”smart lock can keep device unlocked when it’s safe with you. Recognising signals like device proximity to home, connected to car bluetooth etc” – would be extra cool if could stack them. as in only allow voice unlock if device at home.

    1. fredwilson

      i have not played around with smart lock yet. i have that on my to do list.

      1. Eric Satz

        Smart lock pair with a wearable, in my case hearing aids, and then when you are in a meeting you don’t have to pick up the phone to unlock. Just double tap or swipe. Get hearing aids that stream and then you can listen to SoundCloud in the same meeting and nobody but you will know 😉

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          Interesting !Have you used hearing aid remote controls or geo-tagged auto-settings features with an iPhone or an Apple Watch App?Do they add much convenience or audio improvement value?

          1. Eric Satz

            i have ReSound Linx2 hearing aids. They have both an ios and android app. with iphone you can stream directly from phone to hearing aids. with android, you buy an accessory that streams between phone and hearing aids and is also your mic, which means you can leave your android phone in your pocket while having a conversation. with both apps you can control the volume and program settings of your hearing aids. i cannot overstate the audio improvement nor my comfort level knowing that i am truly hearing the person on the other end…in stereo! i don’t have an iphone so i can’t comment on your question specifically, but with the nexus 6p, i use my hearing aids as a smart lock device which means if the aids are within a certain geo of my phone i don’t have to unlock the phone with fingerprint or pin. hope this helps.

    2. William Mougayar

      can you use them all at the same time? This made me think; the ultimate secure phone could have a quadruple form of authentication. – your heartbeat- fingerprint- iris / face scan- password

      1. LIAD

        they’re not currently ‘stacked’ but i’m sure they will be one day. plus biometric stuff will likely play a part in the medium term.

      2. bogorad

        You could use https://nymi.com/ as a smart lock device. Eventually it’s be integrated into a smartwatch (band).

      3. Matt Zagaja

        I’d be interested in learning more about how viable the heartbeat is. Currently Apple Watch uses the heartbeat to stay unlocked not to ID the person but to confirm the watch is still on the person that unlocked it.

        1. William Mougayar

          Nymi had a band that hashed your heart beat in a unique way, and it was used to confirm your identity.

      4. Jess Bachman

        Yeah.. I was fine when the thieves only needed to cut my finger off to access my phone.

    3. dangen11

      i use my mi band to unlock my S4, works most of the time

  3. Joel Natividad

    One thing I wish the TouchID reader had was a high-security mode which automatically locks the iPhone when an unregistered finger presses the home button.Perhaps, this high security mode can even be leveraged to increase usability by adding a Login Memory feature to the TouchID API that can be configured to let you skip TouchID logins on apps that use it within X seconds of it recognizing a registered fingerprint even before invoking the app.Since the home button is used constantly in Apple’s springboard interface, this is a feature that leverages TouchID’s integration with the home button.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      TouchID fails too often for this to viable from a UX standpoint.

      1. scottythebody

        I find that on the “S” version it rarely fails unless your fingers are wet

        1. Matt Zagaja

          A clean sensor does work great on my 6S but all it takes is some french fries or sweating from a run to render it useless. When I work out my interaction with my iDevices basically gets limited to the inline buttons on my bluetooth headset and siri.

          1. jason wright

            i thought iphone users couldn’t afford to eat.

    2. scottythebody

      Additionally, I wish there was an “enhanced security” mode for TouchID which allowed for a fingerprint + simple PIN combination for either phone or app access. So the phone would have:1. A passphrase of greater than 6 characters for reboots, 2-day touchID timeouts, etc.2. A fingerprint3. A simple PIN (4 digit) to use in conjunction with the fingerprint reader. This would fulfill strong private key protection requirements in place in many organizations, which require multi-factor authentication.

  4. Milan Mody

    when your 6p moves , it lights up the screen and you can swipe up and unlock it, no need to use your finger to unlock.besides You should use the smart lock feature in settings , its quite awesome

  5. Deepak Murthy

    For the cases you should probably try the new customized ones from Google. https://store.google.com/ca…Curious why the Nexux 6P over the Galaxy S7?I have an iPhone 5s but the small screen is getting to me now and my first time on iOS, I simply don’t like it. It is very user unfriendly. Miss Android device.

  6. JimHirshfield

    Thank you for touching upon this important feature. You’ve really put your finger on it, where others would have thumbed their nose.

    1. William Mougayar

      nose recognition? that would be un-hirshed of.

      1. JimHirshfield

        S’not so

    2. Jess Bachman

      Leave some puns for the rest of the 99% would’ya…

  7. pointsnfigures

    Didn’t think I’d like it but I do. I like this idea too: https://www.clearme.com/ Clear at airports.

  8. kenberger

    Quick tips re the Nexus 6P, as of today:- Android N is available now for this phone. DON’T do it! (Yet)- Install Fast Reboot https://play.google.com/sto…Every Android still needs a task killer now and then, but Advanced Task Killer isn’t effective on this phone. This does the trick, in 1 touch.- I won’t dare push a watch to Fred ever again, but for anyone else: the Huawei Watch happens to be a killer completion of the 6P.

  9. Charles Dicks

    Re: Case with opening for fingerprint, I’ve used this one since Dec and love it:Nexus 6P Case, i-Blason **Dual Layer** [Kickstand] Google Nexus 6P Case (2015 Release) Prime Series Holster Cover with Kickstand and Locking Belt Swivel Clip (Black) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B…3 1/2 star rating seems to center around issues with belt clip/holster, which I don’t use, so no comment there. And kickstand is handy and works well for me. I’ve dropped >5x, no damage. Great handfeel. 5 stars IMO.

  10. Vitor Conceicao

    I think fingerprint scanning would be great for tablets, specially for a tablet that is used by more than one person in the family, it could recognize which user it is and login with his credentials on all the services.Not sure if any tablet does this right now, I’ve never heard about it.

  11. jason wright

    i think i’ll wait for the 2016 Nexus phones coming out in June.

  12. jason wright

    Fingerprint Friday. I watched The Bourne Supremacy and fingerprints don’t seem that secure. we leave them everywhere to be picked up and used.

  13. LE

    But it turns out that the Nexus 6P also has fingerprint phone access. It’s not a thumb on the home button, it’s your index finger on the upper back of the device.Almost certainly because of the bad for competition patent system.

  14. Joe

    You seem to switch handsets pretty regularly. Just curious, what do you do with the old ones?

  15. Emily Veach

    There’s a photo here of a case that not only has a hole for the fingerprint scanner, but also a programmable shortcut button. I don’t see a way to buy it though :-/https://store.google.com/ca…I love my Nexus 5x, and I use index and middle fingers to unlock 95% of the time. It has trouble reading if my fingers are wet, but otherwise it’s awesome.

  16. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This discussion has me picturing my phone being almost like Silver, the Lone Ranger’s horse. I want to be able to train my phone to recognize a secret phrase or series of tongue clicks uttered only by me that will lock or unlock it remotely.So when the bad guys have me tied to a tree, I can unlock my phone in my pocket and call for help just by saying, “You guys shoulda seen me when I shut out Venus in 2004 [cluck cluck].”Some day we’ll just have a nano chip inserted under the pad of the forefinger that will only unlock the phone if the wearer pictures a specific thing in her mind (communicating with the nano chip in her head, of course).

  17. Will Chang

    Next on your list should be a card holder stick-on. Absolute game changer.

    1. obarthelemy

      Instead, I’ve gone minimalist with my wallet: a tiny Muji fabric thing that barely holds ID, a couple of credit+transportation cards, bills and change. fir in my pants front pocket, which feels a lot safer than the back.

  18. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:After a through review of Blog entries created by Fred that involves a phone for the logical mind it is apparent that Fred conducts business with those who are on the iOS platform and he actually uses it to relate with them. The conclusion from his observations just reveal the obvious that iOS isn’t as good as Android or the products that use it.This isn’t a slight at the brilliant people who actually use the iOS ecosystem but the herd who only follow without cause.The issue with any wearable that requires a person to be accompanied by extra hardware just to use it is doomed to failure. (Apple watch that requires the use of the IPhone, just plain dumb).

  19. Diego Sana

    Glad you choose the Nexus 6p. Previous Nexus phones had its flaws, but this one is just as close to perfection as a phone can get currently. If you are still looking for a case, i suggest you take a look at Spigen case, part number SGP11796 (you can use amazon search to find it). I tried a couple cases with my nexus 6p and this was the one i stuck with.

  20. JimHirshfield


  21. pointsnfigures

    You are here all week.

  22. scottythebody

    They can take your fingerprint from anywhere and replicate it, or force you. It’s not protected “speech” so to speak — at least in some legal analyses I’ve read. That’s why I also want an “Enhanced” mode for TouchID which allows for fingerprint+simple PIN (in addition to strong private key protection with the Secure Enclave).