How to use the Finger Scanner on the Galaxy Note 4

Increase security and also speed up the login process in a few key apps

Though the Finger Scanner wasn't as big of a deal at the launch of the Galaxy Note 4 as it was when it debuted on the Galaxy S5, Samsung kept it around hiding within the home button ready to boost your phone's security. The swipe-style scanner may not be as convenient as what's available on some phones, but the way its integrated into the phone to work for your lockscreen, Samsung Account, PayPal and other apps makes it valuable to set up.

The setup process takes some time, as does getting the right feel for how to swipe on it for the best results, but in the end it's a net positive. Read along and let us show you how to get the Finger Scanner up and running.

Getting started with the Finger Scanner

If you didn't set up your phone to recognize your fingerprint when you first set up your phone, chances are you haven't paid much attention to the feature. Head into the Settings, then find the Finger Scanner entry — at the bottom of the "Personalization" section — to get started. This is where you'll be able to control everything related to your Finger Scanner, but you need to set it up first.

Tap the top entry on the page, Fingerprint manager, tap OK on the next screen and then follow the prompts to register your first fingerprint. The on-screen guide will have you swipe any finger of your choice 10 times on the home button to properly map the full print. You can add two more fingerprints later, but at the first go we suggest using the thumb on the hand you most often hold your phone in — that'll make it easiest to swipe and unlock when first powering on your phone.

When first registering your finger, swipe it down across the home button at a variety of angles so that the scanner can read the entire print. Once you've reached 10 swipes, you're almost done. At the next screen you'll be given the option to enhance recognition with 10 more swipes by tapping Register — we advise taking the few seconds to do so.

Final step: You'll now be asked to enter a backup password if for some reason the phone can't recognize your fingerprint. To further increase security Samsung doesn't let you use a simple pattern or PIN for backup, and even imposes a minimum character length of six and requires both numbers and letters. But that's okay, as you won't be using the password often — only in situations where you can't swipe your finger (like when you're wearing gloves, for example). Create your password and you're done with the initial Finger Scanner setup!

Registering additional fingerprints

The first fingerprint you scanned was probably the thumb on your dominant hand, but Samsung also lets you train the Note 4 to recognize two additional fingers for cases when you're holding the phone differently. To register additional fingerprints, head back into the Fingerprint manager and press the + at the top to go back through the registration process with a new finger. The most common combination of prints will likely be both thumbs and the index finger on your dominant hand — but of course it's completely up to you which fingers you register.

If for some reason you'd like to de-register one of your prints and choose a different one, head back into the Finger Scanner settings, select Fingerprint manager and long-press on one of the prints. You can then select to edit or delete any or all of the prints if you wish.

Getting the most out of it

Now that you have your fingerprint(s) scanned into your Note 4, it's time to start making the most of it. Immediately after scanning your first fingerprint the phone will let you use it to unlock your phone when you turn the screen on, but that's not the only way to use this extra layer of security. The Note 4's software also lets you use your fingerprint to sign into supported websites using Samsung's built-in browser, as well as authenticate in the PayPal app and anywhere your Samsung Account would be needed.

All of these options can be found back in the Finger Scanner portion of the phone settings, at the bottom underneath "Features." The setup process is slightly different for each, but you can quickly enable or disable each feature independently.

Once you have your fingers scanned and you get in the habit of using it, we think you'll migrate toward using the Finger Scanner in every app that supports it. Not only is it much more secure than a standard pattern, but it can also save you time when logging into the places you visit most on your phone.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • While I've found that the scanner works great on my Note 4, its still not as convenient as the TouchId on Apples newest products. Hopefully, Samsung and other OEMs find a suitable replacement for touch scanners as Apple snatched up the best one in town.
  • How reliable is it?
  • Feel like its far more reliable than when i tried to use it on the Galaxy S5. Honestly the swiping motion and recognition itself isn't the bad part — it's the awkwardness of trying to swipe with your thumb to unlock such a large phone. If this was on a smaller device it'd be even better, but I think on such a large device it needs to be a touch, not swipe, sensor.
  • I honestly hadn't considered the size problem. I'm glad it recognizes the print fairly reliably, though. I was worried it would take a few swipes. I appreciate the input.
  • Make sure to really get 10 different angles and directions when you register and it's convenient enough, also one handed. Though I agree with Andrew above, touch would be better. I guess that could come on the next iteration as it seems like it's already on the next Xiaomi, or Oppo or whichever it was who announced that.
  • As Andrew pointed out, you have to swipe your digits from different angles. I've been using this since the beginning of Nov (if you use all ten swipes EXACTLY the same, it won't recognize you from any other angle). If your hands are big enough to try and unlock the phone with your thumb while holding your phone in only one hand, then REALLY focus on holding the phone the way you would only in one hand while registering your prints. It took me half a dozen tries to re-register my thumb in at first I because I was holding the phone in my other hand and simply swiping my thumb at different angles. It wasn't until I really tried to hold the phone the way I would in real life and swiped my thumb from all those angles did it start working right (and regularly.)
  • You're right. But I think most importantly people just need to use they're thumb in general. 2 handed with your thumb and it'll unlock 95% first try Posted via the Unrivaled Note 4 or Tab S 10.5
  • It would be even better if you could use the scanner to log into sites being browsed on Chrome instead of Samsung's stock browser
  • I guess the companies would have to agree on some sort of secure and common keyboard API for that.
  • I agree, but surely you can see why this wouldn't likely be high on Google's list of new features to implement...
  • My only issue, and the reason I don't use it is because the only fallback is the password. If I could have my Pin number be my fallback I would use it no problem, I just hate typing in my password when it inevitably doesn't work. Also I find using it with any kind of case to cause issues. No thanks.
  • I've used it since I got my N4 and I love it. I haven't had any problems with it. Even if you swipe improperly, it'll show you how to swipe properly.
  • I personally don't know why folks make such a big deal about scanners my phone is on my person 100% of the time in my back pocket and I look at it to often to be worried about a password are any think else and all the important things on my phone have a password like my bank etc Posted via Android Central App
  • You're doing two things wrong. 1. Thinking you don't need security.
    2. Putting your phone in your back pocket. I work at a place that routinely taps individuals on the shoulder to hand them their phones. The phrase of the day is "I found this in your back pocket". Rooted LG G2.
    Rooted GS3, Stock Galaxy Note 4
    If it ain't Tech, it ain't Right!
  • A few things to consider about using your fingerprint to lock your phone:
  • Doesn't work worth crap for me. Useless. IPhone works great. So unfortunate. Posted via Android Central App
  • It works in two swipes at most for me. I don't have a problem with it. I couldn't really care how it compares to whatever apple uses because I don't have two phones at me at all times for the sole purpose of comparing features
  • Another trick I found was to use the same finger for all 3 prints along with swiping different angles. I get 99/100 on the first swipe. Posted via the Android Central my Rogers Note 4
  • It works great, unless you have the slightest bit of moisture on your finger. So, I can't use it. The iPhone has the same issue. Posted via Note 4
  • Why not dry your hands before using your phone? Do you live in a pineapple under the sea?
  • @Quis89. Try using the scanner after a bath, shower, or washing dishes. The body absorbs water, which causes your fingerprints to distort. You will also loose the natural oils on your thumb/fingers which make it possible for them to slide easily. I have had to wait 30 to 45 minutes before I could get my print to register. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can promise that I've never had that issue. I've never had to wait 30 minutes after a shower or dishes. That would piss me off lol. But my experience is probably irrelevant. I use an iPhone 6 and not the Galaxy. My only finger print device with Android was the HTC One Max. My M8 doesn't have fingerprint.
  • Apple really does have a hold on the finger print recognition department. The ease of unlocking my iPhone 6 is unmatched. I had the HTC One Max and that implementation was horrible.
  • Apple bought the best. Rooted LG G2.
    Rooted GS3, Stock Galaxy Note 4
    If it ain't Tech, it ain't Right!
  • This scanner is abysmal when it comes to recognition. I turned it off in a matter of a day out of frustration.
  • Andrew: Your article Neglects a major issue- Nobody on the planet uses a Note 4 without a case.
    The finger scanner won't work with a a case. I use a Pelican case. Cases create elevation around the home button which prevents finger print scanning. The whole thing is useless. In order for it to work, Samsung needs to apply a single touch scan. Swiping on an elevation WILL NOT WORK!
  • You'd be surprised how many don't use a case! Posted via the Android Central App
  • There is so much wrong with that comment. Just because YOU use a case, and maybe everyone you know uses one, that doesn't mean every Note 4 owner on the planet does. The forums are full of people that run their Notes naked. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Nobody on the planet uses a Note 4 without a case." Dumb
  • What is DUMB is not using a case for a $900 phone and gambling with it being dropped or damaged. The scanner won't work with a case as it is designed. You cannot swipe within the slot cut'out
  • "Nobody on the planet uses a Note 4 without a case." Wrong! I do!
    Been using for a month and still no drops or scratches.
    I didnt like the feeling of my tpu case, but i still managed to unlock it with a single try even using it.
  • Never used a case, not even a screen protector on any of my past Samsungs. They hold up well on their own. In my opinion only fragile iphones need cases
  • This article should have been rather short. How to use Note 4 finger print scanner: Don't. It sucks. /End article. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's ok, not perfect by a long shot, but it doesnt suck. At least we got the option to swipe or type. i reckon ppl with bad experiences on the finger scanner would hate it more if no such feature was on the Note 4 in the first place. Samsung has given us an option and i like to use it, even tho its 80 - 90% accurate. Can only get better right?
    Is it true that there is no 'touch ID' function like Apple's iPhone scanner cuz of Patent (copyright) rules? So much better with a touch than a swype...
  • I got great advice a few weeks ago in the note 4 forum here, and stored my thumb swiping upwards into one of the fingerprint slots. This works so much better for me and is much more accurate!... Give it a try! Posted using the Note 4!
  • is it fully safety for lock??
  • very cool feature of samsung. unfortunately I have not been able to try it directly
  • Fingerprints may be useful for faster log ins, but don't use them as a replacement for a password. If you ever have to give up your phone/device to a police officer, agent of the courts, or the TSA they can take your fingerprint without a warrant and without violating your legal rights. They cannot however compel you to give them a password or pattern to log in as that is protected speech.
  • Hi how do I get in if the scanner is absent, I forgot the secondary password please? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've used this on my note 4 for a week now and hate it. How can I remove the flamin' thing?! It keeps telling me I can't because it's encrypted now or some such bilge. For the love of christ it's making my new phone experience miserable.