News by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday February 25, 2014.
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The presence of a fingerprint sensor was not surprising when Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5 yesterday. It has been widely believed that the company would go that route following Apple's introduction of Touch ID last year, so the need to keep up with the Jonses necessitated adding a way to unlock a device using a fingerprint. What was interesting about yesterday's announcement was that Samsung decided to take it one step further and add payment authentication to its Fingerprint Scanner.
There are numerous ways to unlock a smartphone, each with different degrees of security, reliability, and speed. Samsung's use of the Fingerprint Scanner tries to balance the three with some mixed results. The Galaxy S5 doesn't use stationary fingerprint reading like Touch ID; it uses a sliding motion that scans a moving finger like the HTC One Max. This can negatively affect reliability and speed because it told me on multiple occasions that I was moving too fast. I had to take slow, deliberate swipes for the phone to recognize my fingerprint accurately. It's faster than entering a gesture or numeric code, but the repeated motions were annoying. That's something that will go away with more frequent use and time, so what we should focus on is how this technology will be used. It's not merely about unlocking your phone, it's also about unlocking it to do certain things. Like Touch ID is used to authenticate users when making app store purchases, the Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner can authenticate a user when attempting to connect with a Samsung account.
And it will support PayPal payments at select stores. PayPal has devised a system that will use the Galaxy S5 to introduce fingerprint authentication for purchases at millions of places across the globe. PayPal has a cloud-based payment system that links with fingerprint authentication rather than relying solely on passwords. Passwords connected to payment systems are encouraged to be long or complicated, and entering them when looking to pay for lunch and clothes isn't quick or comfortable on a smartphone. With a swipe, Galaxy S5 owners will be able to quickly authorize PayPal to send money to any merchant that accepts the service. When the Samsung Galaxy S5 launches in April, merchants in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and 19 other markets will be able to make payments through PayPal and the fingerprint scanner on the phone.
It's widely believed that Apple is working on a payment solution that would incorporate Touch ID. With biometrics playing a larger role in smartphones and processing transactions leading to billions of dollars, every company will want to be involved somehow. Samsung happens to be the first of the major manufacturers to jump into this field. Here's a video demonstration of how PayPal envisions Galaxy S5 owners using its payment solution.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.