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How to enable iris scanning and face unlock on the Galaxy S8

Galaxy S8 facial recognition
Galaxy S8 facial recognition (Image credit: Android Central)

The Galaxy Note 7 (RIP) was the first Samsung device with biometric unlock, but along with iris scanning, the Galaxy S8 brings back an old trick: face unlock. Both are fast and secure, and make up for the awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor. Here's how to use them to unlock your phone.

Biometrics on the Galaxy S8 explained

How to enable iris unlock on the Galaxy S8

  1. From the home screen, swipe down on the notification shade.
  2. Tap the settings icon (cog shape).
  3. Scroll down and tap on Lock screen and security.

  1. Tap on Iris scanner.
  2. Enter your password, PIN or pattern.
  3. Tap Register irises.

  1. Agree to the disclaimer.
  2. Tap continue.
  3. Look at the front-facing camera to register irises.
  4. Tap Turn on if Face unlock is already enabled.
  5. (Optional) Enable Iris unlock when screen turns on to speed up unlock process.
  6. (Optional) Enable Samsung account to use iris to unlock Samsung account.

How to change the screen mask you see when unlocking the phone

Samsung has included a number of interesting (and a few child-friendly) masks that you can use to spruce up the iris unlocking feature. Here's how to change to one of them from the default.

  1. From the home screen, swipe down on the notification shade.
  2. Tap the settings icon (cog shape).
  3. Scroll down and tap on Lock screen and security.

  1. Tap on Iris scanner.
  2. Enter your password, PIN or pattern.
  3. Tap Preview screen mask.
  4. Select new mask pattern.

How to enable Face unlock on the Galaxy S8

  1. From the home screen, swipe down on the notification shade.
  2. Tap the settings icon (cog shape).
  3. Scroll down and tap on Lock screen and security.

  1. Tap on Face recognition.
  2. Enter your password, PIN or pattern.
  3. Tap Register your face.

  1. Tap continue.
  2. Look at front-facing camera to register face.
  3. Tap Turn on if iris scanner is already enabled.
  4. (Optional) Enable Face unlock when screen turns on to speed up unlock process.

That's it! But there are a few things to keep in mind.

How to improve your iris scanning or face unlock experience

Even though the iris scanner and face unlock on the Galaxy S8 are fast and secure, there are ways to improve the experience.

  • When registering irises, take off glasses or remove contacts. This makes it easier for the system to see the real you. You know, inside.
  • Make sure your eyes are open fully — if you're in the sun, move to a shady area so you don't have to squint.
  • Don't try to unlock with your iris in direct sunlight. If you're going to be outdoors for a long period of time, switch over to face unlock, which is faster in good lighting conditions.
  • Don't try to use face unlock in low-light situations. If you're going to be indoors for a long period of time, switch over to iris scanning.
  • This seems obvious, but don't smudge up the front-facing camera or any of the front sensors.
  • If you're getting a lot of failures on either iris scanning or face unlock, remove the registered data, move to a better-lit area (indoors, with good light) and try again.

That's it! Hopefully your biometric unlocking experience is great, but if it's not, there's always the rear fingerprint sensor to fall back on. You have set that up already, haven't you?

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

11 Comments
  • Currently have fingerprint and Iris enabled. And I am amazed by how smoothly the Iris scanner works. Also impressed how well it works in low light and that you can use it in the dark without a front facing flash. And so many complain about the location of the scanner but I'm fine with it and love the fact that you can wake the screen and skip past the lock screen in one touch of the sensor. Needless to say I'm pleased with the unlocking options on the S8 after using for a little over a week now
  • Good to hear!
  • Hi Daniel,
    I really like certain things about my S8+, but there are some things I really despise. The most glaring issue is the SD card problem where it seems to randomly mount and dismount. I can't be sure, but I think it is related to my constant random restarts of the device. But I cannot understand how this issue had not been picked up by a media outlet like androidcentral yet. The forums everywhere are flooded with issues with these devices. Go to Bing and search for "samsung s8 sd card problem" and I think you may be amazed. I have an open case with Samsung and they have asked me to remove my SD card for a while. Ok, that is fine, but I put that same SD card into my S7 Edge... Guess what? Works perfectly.. I just don't understand. This is a nice device, and I am sure there are lots that work well. But Samsung needs to get their stuff together. If at all possible, I would appreciate you looking into this and possibly reporting on the issue to see how widespread the problem really is. I am not getting satisfaction from Samsung, and neither are many others from what I can tell. Thank you in advance for anything you may be able to do to raise awareness of the flaws that need to be fixed in this device!
  • I see a few cases, not an overwhelming amount
  • I use Iris and Fingerprint as well as a password, those options are secure and function well. I do not recommend the facial however as it can easily be fooled with a picture of you or even someone that looks eerily similar.
  • The iris scanner can also be easily fooled.
  • My Iris scanner works like crap. I've re-registered my eyes numerous times in every kind of light and I'm getting success about 50%, mostly in low light conditions. Any other time and I'm looking at the phone stupidly for 5 to 10 seconds. The fingerprint sensor works better, so I just use that, even though its placement is not great on the S8+.
  • I have the same problem. It seams like it doesn't work for me because my eyes are more dilated than most people, a nice side affect of using Adderall. In a slightly dark area my eyes have very little iris exposed so it just wont pick up.
  • I don't understand why Samsung didn't do what Microsoft did on the Lumia 950/XL phones. On the Lumia 950/XL you could register your iris multiple times in different lighting conditions and with and without corrective lenses. I registered mine while looking through both parts of my bifocals and looking in slightly different directions like over the phone rather than directly at it. While the 950/XL with its 820 processor was a little slower than the 835 in the S8/+, I find that the reliability of the 950/XL is significantly higher than on my S8+.
  • Well, this is awkward. http://www.androidcentral.com/galaxy-s8-iris-scanning-bypassed-picture-e...
  • Same thing I was thinking when this article keeps saying "fast and secure". Both face and now Iris have been bypassed by using a printed picture.