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  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Fails at Biometrics

    April 12th, 2017

    As you might expect, fans of Android and/or Samsung gear are tripping over themselves extolling the virtues of the Galaxy S8 smartphones. They are supposed to be, in most every signifiant respect, far superior to what Apple is building now and far superior to the rumored iPhone 8.

    So what’s so superior?

    Well, its edge-to-edge AMOLED display is nothing especially new. Don’t forget the Galaxy S7 Edge as a notable example. So if Apple is going to go that route with an iPhone 8, it may not be original, but that’s not unusual. Apple usually adds such features only when they work properly, not because they sound good. So Apple often seems to be behind the curve.

    Now obviously, the next iPhones are unannounced products. Apple may have given us a vague roadmap about future Macs, but no such statements are expected from the iPhone ahead of its release. While rumors, sourced from the supply chain, will coalesce about some of the features as we get closer to the launch date, Apple is still apt to surprise us.

    The new Samsung smartphones are also be touted as offering superior biometrics, the result of having not just fingerprint sensors, but facial and iris recognition. True, such features are also rumored for the mythical iPhone 8, but Samsung is here and now, and just how well is it doing?

    Well, if it’s a matter of having features first, Samsung has done that before, and I can count the ways. But if it’s a matter of getting them right, it’s not too promising.

    So according to a column from Alexandra Burlacu, entitled “Samsung Was Aware Of Galaxy S8 Design Flaw But Rushed It To Market Anyway,” the biometric features are seriously flawed, but the title is actually about one of them.

    Now this behavior sort of reminds me of the Galaxy Note 7, the one with the flawed batteries that overheated or burst into flame. It was discontinued when Samsung couldn’t get a handle on the cause of the problem. The reason Samsung allowed the flaws to get into production was because they didn’t have time to perfect them. Is that an acceptable excuse?

    It doesn’t seem to ever occur to Samsung that it is better not to have a feature than to deliver one that doesn’t works as promised.

    It starts with that fingerprint center, located at the rear of the unit. It’s there allegedly because, after deciding to remove a physical Home button, Samsung didn’t have the time to create a version that worked with its virtual counterpart. The result, according to the article, is that this choice leads “to an unnatural and uncomfortable grip.”

    While Apple’s Touch ID isn’t 100% perfect, it works most of the time for most people, and is easy to use. You don’t have to make an awkward reach to touch the Home button. With the Galaxy S8, you may be forced to turn it around to find the precise position of the sensor, or just allow your fingers to reach for it clumsily, perhaps touching the camera lens by error and smudging it. In fact, Samsung is reportedly putting up a warning message advising you to clean the lens regularly.

    You think?

    The article’s title, however, is misleading, because it’s not just a single feature that’s flawed.

    Take the iris scanner, an alternate method to unlock a Galaxy S8. But it doesn’t function in dark surroundings, or if you wear glasses. In other words, you have to remove your specs to use it. It brings to mind the classic image of the rapid removal of glasses when Clark Kent is about to change into his super-powered alter ego.

    At least the iris scanner can work for those of you who can easily sidestep its flaws.

    The other feature that isn’t so good is facial recognition . It has already been revealed that it can be defeated with a high quality photo. So might as well disable it.

    Now the article by and large apologizes for Samsung’s unfortunate design choices. So we are told that “Samsung didn’t really have any choice but to compromise in this aspect and launch the smartphone as it is, as finding a more convenient location for the fingerprint scanner would’ve delayed the Galaxy S8 release even further.”

    But what about the other biometric features?

    In any case, the reader is asked to believe that it’s perfectly all right for Samsung to release a highly flawed flagship smartphone, with biometrics that are hard to use, or don’t work very well, because the company was in a rush to get the product out the door. Again, this is the same flawed logic that resulted in designing defective batteries for the Galaxy Note 7. As the Galaxy S8 nears release, you know that it’s most important security features are defective. But what about other important features that are being touted for this gadget? What other flaws does it have that we won’t know about until product reviewers have their say?

    And maybe not even then if they emphasize the number of features rather than how well they work.

    In the meantime, I hope that Samsung has fixed the problems with water-resistance that afflicted the Galaxy S7 Active. According to Consumer Reports, that handset failed a dunk test. So if you dunk your Galaxy S8, will it also fail because Samsung didn’t have time to fix the flaws?

    I’m just asking.

    Oh, and the S8’s Bixby digital assistant, developed by some of the same people who created Siri, will not be available when the product goes on sale. Or ever?



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