With Touch ID in the iPhone 5s, Apple wasn’t the first to integrate a fingerprint sensor in a smartphone, but it certainly popularized the feature as other manufacturers race to build similar technology into their next-gen iPhone competitors. HTC is packing in fingerprint sensors in its latest flagship devices and Samsung announced its new Galaxy S5 earlier this week with finger scanning as one of the standout upgrades. The verdict is still out on how Samsung’s tech compares to Touch ID, but it is interesting to see how others are using fingerprint sensors while Apple keeps it closed to developers and offers very limited applications. With Samsung letting app developers access the new S5’s fingerprint scanner for mobile payments and more right out of the gate, should Apple open the fingerprint sensor to devs in iOS 8?
Apple decided that initially Touch ID would be limited to unlocking the device and authorizing App Store and iTunes purchases. Samsung, on the other hand, has just announced an updated SDK that gives developers access to request fingerprint recognition and “Verify whether the fingerprint of the current user matches the fingerprint registered on the device.” That opens up a ton of potential applications for Android app developers and could be a big selling point when consumers compare the iPhone’s fingerprint features to the Galaxy S5. Samsung will be doing payments with the sensor through PayPal as well as device unlocking and a private mode that keeps certain content hidden until activated with the sensor. HTC has a feature that lets users assign each finger to a different app for quickly launching apps with a touch. Apple’s limited Touch ID functionality is quickly starting to look outdated.
Will Apple open the fingerprint sensor to developers in iOS 8? CEO Tim Cook did all but confirm new functionality is on the way when talking about mobile payments during Apple’s earnings call last month:
The mobile payments area in general is one we’ve been intrigued with. It was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID [...] it’s a big opportunity …
Even with the possibility for mobile payments using Touch ID, which we’ve discussed in the past, the question remains whether Apple will keep it closed to developers to focus on its own mobile payments system, slowly open up new functionality feature by feature, or simply allow devs the opportunity access the hardware freely for any number of use cases in their apps?