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Fingerprint Faceoff: Apple Touch ID vs. Samsung Finger Scanner

Al Sacco | July 17, 2014
Apple's iPhone 5s and Samsung's Galaxy Tab S both pack fingerprint scanners for authentication.

For more on Touch ID and how it works, check out Apple's Touch ID page.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S Fingerprint Scanner

Like Apple's Touch ID sensor, the Galaxy Tab S's fingerprint reader lives beneath the device's home key. Like Touch ID, it's easy to register new fingerprints. The Galaxy Tab S home button is a long, thin oval, and it's just wider than the average finger. For the most part, the scanner works well, though it also doesn't like sweaty or pruned fingers. 

To use the scanner, you need to slide a finger with a firm, smooth swipe across the height of the oval. You cannot tap or touch the scanner to unlock the Tab S. You can't swipe from side to side to unlock the device, even if you flip the tablet vertically. This is a real drawback, because the fingerprint reader only works if you slide your finger in the exact way it requires.

You can't, for example, flip the tablet into portrait, or vertical, orientation and then swipe a finger vertically over the length of the oval home button. You can, however, slide from the bottom of the scanner to the top, as long as you slide your finger across the height of the oval.

The Galaxy Tab's fingerprint scanner integrates with more services than Apple's Touch ID. For example, you can not only unlock your device with a fingerprint, but also authenticate your Samsung account, which is used to access some Samsung-specific apps and services. You can also use a fingerprint within the PayPal payment app to pay for online purchases or by items in stores where PayPal is accepted. (See the video below for details.) You can't, however, pay for Google Play purchases with the swipe of a fingerprint.

Two unique fingerprint-based Galaxy Tab S features: Multi-user authentication and access to private mode. If you create multiple user profiles on the Galaxy Tab S, you can easily switch between each user on the device's lock screen, and the Tab S recognizes fingerprints for each individual. (This feature is more suited for a tablet than a smartphone, because while many people share tablets, it's less common to share a smartphone.) The Galaxy Tab S also has a unique private mode that lets you store certain apps and contents in a "secure" space within a user profile. You need to log in to the private space to access this content, and you can use your fingerprint to unlock it.

You can log three separate fingerprints per Galaxy Tab S user. You can quickly edit and rename your fingerprint settings using the fingerprint manager feature, though it's a multistep process that could be simpler.


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