There's no shortage of Galaxy S7 rumors right now, and while the Internet hivemind is great at processing information and analyzing information spit out from all different directions, context isn't always there to help determine what's real and what isn't. This isn't a surprise, after all we are talking about unreleased and unannounced hardware with a group of early adopters that absorb leaks and rumors like a sponge left in the desert. What's fun about the process, especially as we get closer to the launch of the phone, is is participating in the conversation.
One rumor in particular started a brief conversation in our forums about retina scans as authentication on the Galaxy S7, and whether that would be a practical unlock method on any phone right now. While there's little evidence to suggest Samsung is preparing to roll this feature out, they're probably one of the only companies that could actually pull it off right now.
It's nothing like the crazy lasers we see in movies and TV shows.
The next stage of authentication has been on our collective minds for quite a while now. Fingeprint sensors are all the rage right now, due largely to how fast and efficient they are. While the general consensus is that this mechanism is at the bottom of the top five ways to keep your phone secure, it's certainly better than nothing in most cases.
Retina scanning at this point in our usage would mostly be a more specific kind of face unlock, which as we know has its own security pitfalls as a practical and secure authentication mechanism. It's nothing like the crazy lasers we see in movies and TV shows. Microsoft has a similar mechanism introduced with the Lumia 950, with an IR sensor in the mix to help with accuracy. The demonstrations we've seen so far claim to be looking at the veins in your eyes for authentication, but there's still a reasonable chance this could be defeated by a higher-resolution photo or video of your eyes. What makes using your eyes to unlock your phone different is a more specific zone on your face, which may be more difficult to spoof using consumer-grade tools. We've seen examples of this technology already from ZTE and Alcatel running on Android phones, but how practical is this unlock method?
The "eyeprint" unlock mechanism we saw mostly as a concept last year answered a lot of the basic questions. Both ZTE and Alcatel demonstrated that "eyeprint" unlock could be used with and without glasses, and in our more detailed tests on the Idol 3 it seemed more accurate than Google's Face Unlock for getting past the lock screen and into your phone. It's still less efficient and noticeably less accurate than a good fingerprint sensor, but it worked and worked well enough to be considered reliable.
We have absolutely nothing that suggests Samsung is planning to release retina scanning with the Galaxy S7, but if any phone could pull it off it'd be this one. Samsung has demonstrated superiority in both display tech and photography, so this kind of authentication would work in places many other smartphones would struggle with, like when you're outside in the bright sun. A decent front-facing camera and Samsung's ultra-bright sunlight mode would make tech that we've already seen be functional on lesser phones be a viable authentication option just about everywhere.
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