Galaxy S8 security: Which unlocking method should you use?

We think everyone should lock their phone and be sure to enable a find my phone feature that can erase it if it gets lost or stolen. This is the best way to make sure someone can't just pick it up and rifle through all your stuff. The Galaxy S8 has a handful of different ways to do it and they are a great balance of convenience versus security. We're here to help you pick the best method for you.

Passwords and PINs

This is always the best way to make sure only you can unlock your phone, but they are also the least convenient method and require you to type your passcode every time you need to look at the screen if your phone was locked.

If you use your phone for business or just have stuff on it that you think is worth protecting the best way you can, you'll want to use a password. Always use a strong password and follow a few basic steps:

  • Don't use a single word no matter how obscure you think it is.
  • Choose a password that's a minimum of eight characters.
  • Use numbers, special characters and both upper and lower case letters.
  • If you need to write it down just in case, don't write it on something you carry with you. Phones and backpacks get stolen, unfortunately.

You can use a password generator if you want something completely random. A strong password on an encrypted phone is a tough nut to crack even for law enforcement, so it's also difficult for you to bypass it. Do what you need to do so you remember it.

Your birthday makes a horrible PIN so don't use it.

If a company issued your phone to you they might have specific requirements or give you a password. Treat it the same way and don't write it down on a slip of paper in your wallet or purse.

For most practical purposes a 6-digit PIN is almost as good as a full-on password but has the bonus of being easier to remember. Just don't pick any number attached to you like a birthdate or numbers from another ID.


Samsung introduced the iris scanner with the Note 7 and improved it for the Galaxy S8. For the most part, it's a secure way to unlock your phone.

The mix of convenience and security makes fingerprints or your iris a good choice for locking your phone.

More testing needs to be done but it seems like it's difficult to "fake" your phone into unlocking with a photo of your eye. The iris scanner uses more than just photo matching here. In any case, the chances someone else would have a high-resolution photo of your eye to use and unlock your phone is pretty slim, so even if it can be done it probably won't happen in the real world. Plenty of people love the ease and speed of unlocking their Galaxy S8 using their eyes so you definitely need to give it a try.

The fingerprint scanner is still there, but it's been moved to the back. It works the same way fingerprint sensors work on most high-end phones and provided you take the time to set it up carefully it's a convenient way to unlock the screen without having to type anything.

One thing to know about both of these methods is that in some places law enforcement can force you to unlock your phone using a fingerprint or iris. Regardless of how you feel about this issue, you need to know that it's possible.

How to set up the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S8

Because they offer a nice mix of convenience and security, we think using your iris or fingerprint is one of the best ways to secure your lock screen.

Face unlock: convenience above all

You can also use your face or a pattern to unlock your phone. Just know that Google and Samsung both acknowledge that these methods are fairly easy to bypass.

Face unlock can be fooled, but only by someone who already has a high-resolution photo of your face.

Face unlock on the Galaxy S8 has been refined over the way it's done in stock Android, but it's still pretty easy to get around. This is because it's simply matching certain features and areas of your face that it has stored during setup with what it sees in the camera. A high-resolution photo is good enough to fool face unlocking. One thing that doesn't get mentioned when people talk about bypassing face unlock is that chances are someone who finds or steals your phone won't have a high-resolution full-size photo of your head. While it's not very secure, not having access to that photo makes that a moot point.

Pattern unlock isn't insecure by nature. Drawing a pattern between nine random dots has plenty of combinations and isn't going to be easy to guess without special equipment. But your fingers make it pretty easy: they leave a trail of grease.

Your skin secretes natural oils to keep it from turning into leather. We've all seen how a phone screen can be smudgy and icky from fingerprints, and when you are tracing the same pattern to unlock your phone all day that leaves a nice trail for someone to follow with their finger. It's not easy to do, but you can do it on your friend's phone if you try a couple of times. And you can bet that thieves know to look for the tell tail smudge lines when they nab an Android phone.

Smart Lock

Smart Lock is the easiest of all ways to unlock your phone because it's automatic.

Smart Lock works for anyone when it's within range.

Using your location or a Bluetooth device like a key fob or wearable, you can set your phone to stay unlocked under certain conditions. When you want to use it the power button takes you right to your home screen or a swipe to unlock screen.

Smart Lock is a great way to unlock for people who have a smartwatch or a Fitbit. It's accurate and doesn't drain the battery very much. Just remember that anyone with your watch or within Bluetooth range can unlock your phone.

Using Smart Lock on the Galaxy S8: Everything you need to know

Your choice

Locks were invented to keep honest people out of things. We can never depend on a lock screen to guard our privacy alone, but it is part of the basics and something everyone should be doing. Just remember that there is always someone working on bypassing any security feature and we don't have to make it easy for the bad guys. Or sneaky little brothers or roomies.

How do you lock your phone? Are you digging the iris scanner or improved face unlock on the Galaxy S8? Holler in the comments and let us know!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.