Google's Nexus 6 abandoned fingerprint sensor after failed attempt to catch up with Apple's Touch ID

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2014
The Google-branded, Motorola-built Nexus 6 attempted to incorporate a fingerprint sensor like Apple's Touch ID which debuted on last year's iPhone 5s. However, the feature was abandoned shortly before the phone's introduction.

Nexus 6 no fingerprint sensor


A report by Ars Technica noted that jumbo sized 6 inch Nexus 6 (code name "Shamu") was first rumored to include a fingerprint sensor in July.

By late August, Google's Android source had removed "fingerprint support," with references to Synaptics, the touchscreen maker that acquired fingerprint sensor maker Validity Sensors shortly after Apple began selling iPhone 5s with Touch ID.

Samsung uses Synaptic's Validity sensors in its Galaxy S5 and Note 4 products, but their sensors require users to swipe their fingers over the sensor at a fixed rate, or the scan will fail. Ed Baig of USA Today wrote that Samsung's "fingerprint scanner doesn't work as well as the similar feature Apple has on the iPhone 5s."

Samsung Galaxy S5


Google and Motorola appear to have both been using the same sensor vendor, and also the same style of sensor; the code commits reference methods named "FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_SLOW," which Ars said "suggest it supported a 'swipe' style fingerprint reader, which, unlike Apple's stationary fingerprint reader, requires the finger to be moved across a sensor at the right speed."

The site added that "the hardware on the Nexus 6 was going to be a launch point for a whole fingerprint API in Android," and that Android 5.0 Lollipop code comments referenced "a service to manage multiple clients that want to access the fingerprint HAL API," implying a Hardware Abstraction Layer architecture for enabling multiple apps to work with any available sensor that might appear on an Android device.

The site speculated that the work might later materialize in "6-12 months," similar to how a new camera API that was expected to appear in last year's Android 4.4 KitKat later showed up in Android 5.0.

The inability of Google and Motorola to successfully incorporate a competitive fingerprint sensor into their latest flagship smartphone highlights the value of Apple's 2012 acquisition of AuthenTec, which had developed an advanced new sensor that nobody in the industry apart from Apple seemed to be interested in, due to its component cost.

Motorola Atrix


In early 2011, Google and Motorola had previously worked on the development of the Motorola Atrix phone (above) that debuted Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with support for an earlier AuthenTec fingerprint sensor. However, that solution never caught on and was abandoned in subsequent Motorola phones.

That failure was in part related AuthenTec's less sophisticated sensor, but Motorola also had to roll its own support for the sensor, complicating Atrix users' ability to obtain Android updates.

Google's Android also lacked any specialized security for protecting fingerprint data. The necessity of developing sophisticated security architecture between apps and users' fingerprint data was highlighted in 2012, when notebook fingerprint sensor vendor UPEK was found to insecurely store user's Windows login passwords in the Registry.

Apple's release of Touch ID hardware was accompanied not only by basic software support in iOS 7, but also a sophisticated new security architecture that integrated into the A7 Application Processor, using its silicon Secure Enclave to lock away biometric data access from hackers or rogue malware-infected apps. Third party apps are not even allowed to directly access the sensor.

A year later, Apple expanded Touch ID to its iPads and released Apple Pay with fingerprint authentication. iOS 8 also enabled apps to request that the system verify the user's fingerprint on their behalf. Major U.S. Banks have been incessantly promoting the fingerprint transaction feature of Apple Pay on iPhone 6 in their TV advertising and on ATM screens.

Google's inability to deliver a fingerprint API usable by its licensees, Motorola's inability to produce an acceptable hardware prototype and Samsung's shipment of a flawed to the point of not being usable fingerprint technology have called into question the ability of Android as an open source project to enable a broad array of companies to competently replicate the design work Apple is pioneering.

Android partners are also still struggling to deliver the first 64-bit Application Processors, which range from the disappointing performance of Nvidia's tablet niche Tegra K1 to the delayed debut of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 93
    I love the first picture. Like the Nexus' are falling like domino's. Because they suck. Even marketing can't get anything right.
  • Reply 2 of 93
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member
    It's a funny world where a manufacturer will rubbish a competitors product while secretly rushing to copy it.

    Indeed, the saddest part of the image shown isn't even the crappy finger print reader that is both trickier than entering a passcode and designed in such a way that it needs two hands to operate. Rather it's the subtle copying of the icon and position of the fast-access to the camera feature. What a perfect summary: A familiarly placed icon, taking the user to a familiar looking camera app, with even a familiar looking camera button.

    There are simply so many ways to do this, that it boggles my mind why they'd be so thoughtless to not even try a unique, or possibly better implementation. It shows that they're not willing to put in even a minuscule amount of thought into their flagship product.
  • Reply 3 of 93
    In Google's defense, they didn't include a crapy fingerprint sensor on their device like other vendors. I think that's a big deal toward not being a "me too" vendor that technically adds a feature regardless of how well it performs.
  • Reply 4 of 93
    solipsismy wrote: »
    In Google's defense, they didn't include a crapy fingerprint sensor on their device like other vendors. I think that's a big deal toward not being a "me too" vendor that technically adds a feature regardless of how well it performs.

    What about Face Unlock? ;)
  • Reply 5 of 93

    Dear Apple Mouthpiece,

     

    Goodix already has non-swipe fingerprint sensors, one of which has already been incorporated in the Meizu MX4 Pro.

    It has higher PPI than the one found in iPhone.

    Also, what you called "a sophisticated new security architecture that integrated into the A7 Application Processor" is just a customized version of ARM‘s TrustZone, which is available to all ARM licensees and is utilized in the Meizu MX4 Pro.

  • Reply 6 of 93
    What about Face Unlock? ;)

    I think that was a Samsung Galaxy S4 feature, but even if we do find poor features that Google added to say "me too" the point remains they didn't appear to do it with this fingerprint scanner. That deservers a little credit, right?
  • Reply 7 of 93
    paul94544paul94544 Posts: 1,027member
    This won't deter fandroids from their usual lies and denial. This I think is one of the main reasons after screen size increases why Apple will report more than 70m iPhone sales in qtr4 during jan earnings call and share price will be about $135. I already predicted this would be one if the main features many times this year. It's great being right.
  • Reply 8 of 93
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post





    I think that was a Samsung Galaxy S4 feature, but even if we do find poor features that Google added to say "me too" the point remains they didn't appear to do it with this fingerprint scanner. That deservers a little credit, right?

    So, this is the first time Google did not release a "perpetual beta" product/feature?

  • Reply 9 of 93
    Here's that 'commit' doc from Google:
    https://android.googlesource.com/device/moto/shamu/ /d5340f3

    [quote]android / device/moto/shamu / d5340f3
    commit d5340f38dbf3ffc2a5bea6a90f52695d4b02483d[log][tgz]
    author Vineeta Srivastava Mon Aug 25 16:29:40 2014 -0700
    committer Vineeta Srivastava Mon Aug 25 23:34:51 2014 0000
    tree 6444d8dc5037e2aa72cc60a0c7eeb6692ebb51b4
    parent 186d3474256837d470f585e96101a72c81ac23dc[diff]
    shamu: remove fingerprint support

    Bug: 15915296
    Change-Id: I22fa803547636427e6ac2e791dec7ed670419bf0
    init.shamu.rc[diff]
    proprietary-blobs.txt[diff]
    vendor_owner_info.txt[diff]
    3 files changed
    [/quote]
  • Reply 10 of 93



    I just got my first touch ID devices - iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 Plus. I used to think I didn't really need that feature, but now I don't know how I'd live without it.

  • Reply 11 of 93
    I was wondering if anyone else would attempt to enter this space. It's obviously more challenging than anyone had expected.

    Samsung has a fingerprint scanner... but its implementation isn't so great.

    HTC has one too. But they put it on the [B]back[/B] of the phone!?!?!? :no:

    And Motorola... they just gave up.

    Maybe they'll all get their acts together next year.

    I'll still be enjoying TouchID on an iPhone though :D
  • Reply 12 of 93

    It's so amusing watching this gong-show happening with Apple's competitors... haha!

     

    Thank You Steve for creating an intelligent, competent company, while your competitors scramble for the scraps (of profits).

  • Reply 13 of 93
    Check...and...mate. I wonder if Android will solve this in 5 years.
  • Reply 14 of 93
    I still laugh at how easy FaceTime is and I don't see anyone able to compete with Apple on that front...
  • Reply 15 of 93
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member

    I've been using Apple devices for a long time now, but I never guessed that I would be unlocking devices with my damn thumb and sometimes making purchases with it too.

     

    The killer part is that it works so well. 

     

    I love how sometimes certain Fandroids will mysteriously pop up out of nowhere and claim that "but, but there was this blah blah phone or a blah blah laptop that had a fingerprint reader before Apple did!"

     

    My reply to that would be - So what you moron! Their crap never worked well, so it was as good as useless! There were people who attempted to get a plane to fly before the Wright brothers did, but if your plane can't get off the ground, then you don't have jack shit. Who is history going to remember? The person who failed or the person who succeeded?

     

    Apple's implementation of the fingerprint reader is first rate. Apple obviously chose the right fingerprint company to purchase.

     

    Android is more about having all sorts of crap features, with crappy implementations, rendering most of them totally useless and they just end up being pathetic gimmicks. Google probably realized that it would be far too embarrassing for them to implement a fingerprint sensor that would be crap. What's the use? Isn't Samsung's laughable fingerprint scanner embarrassing enough?

     

    Let's forget for a moment that iOS is far superior to Android and never mind that Apple's hardware blows away everybody else. I believe that Touch ID alone is a huge advantage for Apple devices. Nothing else even comes close.

  • Reply 16 of 93
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,814member
    But but Android phones have octa-core chip, lol...I can see how Fandroids miss this feature so much. It's been 2 years and Android have not caught up yet on finger print scanner and 64- b Chips.
    I expect Sog35 to make bold comment in the morning on this subject.
    I don't even remember when was the last time I use 4-digital code to unlock my phone. The dam TouchID works ridiculously well every day every time. To Fandroids, I'll check back with you on this in 2 years.
  • Reply 17 of 93
    apple ][ wrote: »
    I've been using Apple devices for a long time now, but I never guessed that I would be unlocking devices with my damn thumb and sometimes making purchases with it too.

    The killer part is that it works so well. 

    I love how sometimes certain Fandroids will mysteriously pop up out of nowhere and claim that "but, but there was this blah blah phone or a blah blah laptop that had a fingerprint reader before Apple did!"

    My reply to that would be - So what you moron! Their crap never worked well, so it was as good as useless! There were people who attempted to get a plane to fly before the Wright brothers did, but if your plane can't get off the ground, then you don't have jack shit. 

    Apple's implementation of the fingerprint reader is first rate. Apple obviously chose the right fingerprint company to purchase.

    Android is more about having all sorts of crap features, with crappy implementations, rendering most of them totally useless and they just end up being pathetic gimmicks. Google probably realized that it would be far too embarrassing for them to implement a fingerprint sensor that would be crap. What's the use?

    Let's forget for a moment that iOS is far superior to Android and never mind that Apple's hardware blows away everybody else. I believe that Touch ID alone is a huge advantage for Apple devices. Nothing else even comes close.

    Remember when Apple introduced the smart cover for the iPad 2 ... I said at the time, that I'd buy an iPad 2 just so I could use the smart cover ... I did!

    TouchID, for all its benefits, boils down to this:

    "Reliable, safe, secure, private, fast, easy" are givens ...It's all about convenience ...


    People are buying iPhones to get the convenience that TouchID unlocks!
  • Reply 18 of 93
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post





    "Reliable, safe, secure, private, fast, easy" are givens ...It's all about convenience ...





    People are buying iPhones to get the convenience that TouchID unlocks!



    Agreed!

  • Reply 19 of 93
    apple ][ wrote: »
    "Reliable, safe, secure, private, fast, easy" are givens ...It's all about convenience ...



    People are buying iPhones to get the convenience that TouchID unlocks!


    Agreed!

    I'm retired, but I used to travel a lot on business ...

    The convenience of TouchID for a [business] traveler is a no-brainer -- all my stuff is safe and secure -- but immediately accessible at my fingertips!

    In addition, I can board a plane, visit with mon ami Jaques Daniels at the bar, pay for dinner, open the door to my hotel room, buy a gift for the wife and kids ...
  • Reply 20 of 93
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ifij775 View Post



    Check...and...mate. I wonder if Android will solve this in 5 years.

     

    http://www.meizu.com/en/products/mx4promtouch.html

     

     

    Starting from 2:40

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