The Samsung Galaxy S8 offers a variety of unlocking mechanisms. It may seem overwhelming to try to set one up at first, especially if you don't know which one to choose. After using the smaller Galaxy S8 for about a week, I can say there are definitely some key differences between each of these three unlocking methods, including how quickly each method unlocks the phone.

You can still choose to employ Android's native unlocking mechanisms (PIN, pattern unlock, and password), but here we'll be covering the new options offered specifically by Samsung on the Galaxy S8.

Note: If you're planning on utilizing either the iris scanner or face recognition abilities, know that you can only employ one of these methods at a time. You'll see the disclaimer displayed in the settings panel when you're setting it up.

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You cannot use both the face unlock and iris unlock methods at the same time to unlock the Galaxy S8.

Unlocking with the iris scanner

The Iris scanner is easy to set up. All you need to do is hold the phone about 10-14 inches away, directly in front of your face. The infrared sensor and front-facing camera will simultaneously start to scan you in — it may even surprise you at how quickly it registers. Just be sure to set things up in a well-lit room and not outside or in direct sunlight.

Also, be aware that if you wear glasses or contacts, it may be harder for the iris scanner to identify you.

The Galaxy S8 with Iris scanning.It is very difficult to do this and shoot with the DSLR at the same time.

There are two options for unlocking the Galaxy S8 with your irises. The first method requires you to press and hold the virtual Home button to trigger the scan. The second fires up the scanner immediately as soon as you turn on the screen, and it's this method that's the quickest at unlocking your phone since it doesn't rely on that extra step.

I grabbed a stopwatch (my Pixel XL) to count how long it takes to unlock the phone with the iris scanner. I started the timer with the phone on my lap while sitting down at my desk. It took 8.14 seconds before the Galaxy S8 unlocked to the Home screen. I could see the red light flash in rapid succession as it looked for my eyes, though it took a second (quite literally) for me to properly orient the device.

The iris scanner's masks are actually quite cute.

This has nothing to do with how quickly the Galaxy S8 can unlock, but I did want to share that you can add an overlay mask to the top portion of the screen where your eyes are detected. Anecdotally, I also want to share that this screen didn't seem to pop up as often if you're unlocking the phone straight from when the screen turns on.

Unlocking with face recognition

You also have the option to unlock your phone using facial recognition. To do so, you must first register your face under Lock screen and security option in the settings panel. Practice the same best practices for usin the iris scanner, including setting up your face recognition indoors and away from direct sunlight.

When you're ready, hit continue. Your face will register and you'll see a percentage status fill up around the headshot as it finishes it up. After it's registered, you can choose from the same setting as the iris scanner to unlock the phone immediately when the screen turns on. This is also how I'll conduct my speed test.

The Galaxy S8 with face recognitionThis is pretty quick if you're not holding a camera at the same time.

With the Galaxy S8 on my laptop and the face unlock featured turned on, it took just 5.91 seconds before the phone launched to the Home screen. I had no idea the feature was working, though. It uses the front-facing camera to scan your face, which doesn't offer an indicator light so you know it's chugging along.

In my testing period, I haven't had an easy time unlocking the Galaxy S8 with the facial recognition feature. I found the method to be quite finicky to use in low light environments, particularly at night when I don't have as much natural light shining in from the outside. Also, you can try unlocking it with a picture of yourself if you like.

Unlocking with your fingerprint

If you've had time to read the numerous reviews of the Galaxy S8, then you know that the placement of its rear fingerprint sensor is odd, to say the least. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally attempted to scan in my fingerprint on the camera lens instead. Hilariously, the camera app will alert you if you've smudged up the lens too much to snap a photo.

The Galaxy S8 with fingerprint scanner.If the fingerprint sensor feels like it's in an odd place, you're not alone in thinking this.

To register your fingerprint, head into the settings panel. Unlike the last two unlocking options, you can scan in your fingerprint as a backup when either the iris scanning. We'd also suggest you scan in more than one fingerprint — at least one on each hand — so that there is a backup for whatever reason. And to that end, if you want a backup for when the fingerprint sensor doesn't work, set up a pattern or PIN unlock. Isn't it nice to have so much choice?

I cleaned the sensor thoroughly before scanning in. From my lap, I placed my left index finger on the backside of the Galaxy S8 and scanned in my fingerprint. It took a second before it registered, though it was the fastest method to the Home screen at 5.36 seconds. Overall, the performance of the fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ depends entirely on how clean your smartphone and your fingers are. Seriously. If there's too much gunk in between— whether it's finger grease, food, dirt, or any other sort of residue — that will affect the sensor's ability to scan you in.

What's your fave?

Of these three somewhat futuristic methods of unlocking the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+, which do you prefer? Leave a comment.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+


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