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I miss my fingerprint sensor but not for the reason you might think

Pixel 3a
Pixel 3a (Image credit: Android Central)

I'm both a fan and not a fan of biometrics. I'll admit I am using face unlock on the Pixel 4 since Google implemented lockdown mode so I can switch it off with a press of the power button, but I still don't love biometrics.

My fingerprint or my face is my identity, not my password. I may have 10 fingerprints but you know what I mean here. Those things are who I am, not my password. If someone somehow finds a way to get a copy of either then they might have just a set of fingerprints or a photo of my pretty face or they could have a way into anything that uses those to unlock my stuff.

On the other hand, the mere convenience factor of having biometrics means more people than ever are locking their phones and some of those people might have my details in their contacts app. I want everyone to lock their phones and I am that guy who nags my friends and family until they finally cave in and just do it to shut me up.

I finally convinced my family to use a secure lock screen because a fingerprint sensor makes it so easy.

But my love-hate relationship with biometrics isn't what I'm spending time writing words and complaining about — I miss having the fingerprint sensor because of one simple reason — I did convince my wife to lock her phone and realized that she can't unlock mine if I need her to do so.

I do not snoop on my wife's phone nor does she snoop on mine. I don't particularly care if my wife wants to look through my phone because she would find things that literally bored her out of her skull and I don't have any side-chicks or anything of the sort. We're pretty open with each other and try not to keep secrets. As far as I know, she feels the same way.

I say this because when she was setting up her latest phone (she goes through them way faster than I do) she did the same thing she usually does and handed it to me to add another fingerprint in case I needed to unlock her phone. And with the holiday season and all the driving I've done this year, I realized there are a lot of times you might want to unlock your partner's phone.

Sometimes you need to get into your partner's phone. Especially if they are driving.

My wife doesn't have her fingerprint registered on my phone because my phone has no fingerprint sensor. That means I can't tell her to do something like look at a browser bookmark I might have or to send off a text for me or to see what in tarnation is dinging me non-stop and what the person might want unless she wants to type in my ugly and complex password, which she does not want to do because it looks like comic book censored swearing. Imagine something like #$97t^&%%$ and you get the idea.

And as good as face unlock on the Pixel 4 is — it works marvelously for me, even with sunglasses on — you can only use one face. There is no way to add my wife as a backup face just in case. She doesn't have my stupid password memorized, so the only way she can unlock my phone is for me to call out the password character by character. That's something I can't do unless I am there and able to talk.

I found the funniest church sign in the world and couldn't send it to anyone because of my "stupid orange thing" 😭

My wife nailed it somewhere between North Carolina and Tennessee — her phone (she got a pink Pixel 3 XL for Christmas because that's what she asked for) was better than mine because mine was "stupid" and if I wanted to send that photo of a funny church sign to Dale I can pull over and do it myself or not use a phone like that stupid orange thing. To make matters worse, this forced a much-needed pit stop for food at a Wendy's instead of an authentic roadside filthy North Carolina barbeque stand pulled pork sandwich.

Holding my phone up to my face while I am driving so my wife can open my Maps app and see the little BBQ place I have starred or fire off a message to my best friend with a picture of a stupid road sign (these are the important things in life, dammit) is neither safe nor convenient. And would be completely unnecessary if I could add a way for my wife to pass the lock screen check on my phone. You can't always count on OK Google to do everything.

But I can always count on my wife.

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.

18 Comments
  • Any man that will print "I don't have any side chicks", so his wife will see it, usually does.
  • I miss the fingerprint sensor for several reasons, it works every time, it lets me unlock programs with my finger, it works in the dark where the face unlock does not work at all. They could have used both sensors, and of course a larger battery. They need to get back some of the Nexus people...
  • Good Stuff Jerry. I agree the FP sensor is needed. I usually buy a year old model when getting a new phone. So, I have the sensor and love it.
  • Nice write up, Jerry!! I agree 100%. I can unlock my wife's phone and she can unlock mine, same way you explained. I chose not to upgrade this year 99% reason why is no FP sensor.
  • I agree!!
    I had to change my pin to the same pin she has as a backup to her FP just so she can access my phone for exactly the same road trip reasons.
    One face saved is silly.
    I guess humanity hasn't progressed technologically enough to store a second face on the security chip yet.
  • Problem solved. My wife and I know each other's PINs on our iPhones and Pixels. We know each other's important passwords as well and have taken advantage of LastPass's sharing option for others. This is not rocket science. That does of course require some modicum of trust with your spouse. If you don't have that though, maybe resolve that. (married 43 years BTW)
  • I'll take an "old school" fingerprint sensor over Face ID/Unlock or iris scanner any day of the week.
  • While I agree that not having a fingerprint sensor is a pain point (but not for the reason you have given, more so the lack of app support for it currently), the story example you have given for this sounds like whining. Phones aren't supposed to be community devices, it is your phone. If you want to have her be able to unlock your phone as a backup without a long complex password to type in, use a 4-6 digit pin code that she can type in easier. She'll be able to remember it and problem solved. And the whole I took a picture of a funny sign and OMG I couldn't share it the very second because I was driving and my wife couldn't unlock my phone to do it for me really oozes with first world problems. My god, my social world would just crumble if I had to wait to share it at a later time when I wasn't driving and wanted to share something funny I saw earlier in the day. Yes it would have been great if they included a fingerprint sensor in addition to face unlock, but your example isn't one critical to one's well being. And there are ways to make this easier. No knock against you though.
  • I got the Pixel 4xl with Face unlock set... And IF I need my wife to open it for me, I just give her the PIN number I set as secondary unlock measure and she can access the phone no problem. Not sure what the issue is here...
  • This. My wife uses face unlock her phone. I know the pin. I don't know what the issue is?
  • The problem is versatility. If, for your own reasons, you can register multiple fingerprints, however the safety concerns are. In google's version of face unlock, you can only register one user, that way. Your use, and need are different from others, which are different from yours, and some would like multiple ways. With the pin, you lose the effectiveness of having face unlock too, as your wife would still have to enter one. I'm sure someone will fix that though, and it will be a non-issue for all. If not officially, a dev at xda will find a way. Does ios's face unlock have that restriction too? If not, android will catch up to that.
  • Add your wife to your phone as a second profile if she's not using it to search through your stuff this shouldn't be a problem Settings > System > Advanced > Multiple users. But you don't need to unlock your phone to take pictures just double click your power button it opens the app let's you take pictures it won't let you view pictures until it's unlocked but your orange thing is smarter than you think
  • Did you forget that you can still have a pattern or password? All my fingers are registered to myself, but my girlfriend and I can unlock each other's phones with our patterns.
  • Agree 100%. Fingerprints are not ideal but I can put my husband on my phone and he can put me on his. I have a note 10, and use facial recognition for my phone because it is convenient to just pick it up and use it, but I have fingerprint as well (his included) and a pattern that is the same for both our phones.
  • Having both options would be ideal. I miss being able to unlock while the phone is flat on a table to check notifications. Now I have to pick it up like an animal.
  • Glad I've got the best of both worlds then: Secure 3D face mapping, AND a fingerprint sensor!
    My wife and I have each other's PIN and fingerprints, the gamer girl who hangs out with me has my PIN so she can use my phone while I'm asleep, and the actress I used to hang out with has my fingerprint registered on her phone as well.
  • Just got a open box pixel 3a xl $283 eBay. Love my very accurate finger print scanner!! 👎To biometrics face lock!! Will NEVER buy a phone that has it.
  • In the car would be a good use case for the Smart Lock feature where your phone stays unlocked when within range of your car's Bluetooth. Unlock it before you pull away and you won't have to worry about it again until you shut the car off