Best ways to secure and unlock your Galaxy Note 8

We've said it a million times (and we really mean it): your personal information, financial details, address book, photos and all the rest of the "stuff" on your phone should only be seen by people you want to see it. That means you should pay attention to the things apps you install want to do with all of it, but more importantly, it means you need to keep your phone locked when you're not using it.

70 million phones are lost each year. Yours could be one of them.

For starters, you need to have a screen lock set up to use mobile payments from both Samsung and Google. If you don't use your phone to pay for things, it's still worth making sure some random person can't rifle through everything if they find or steal your phone. A study for Lookout (by IDG Research) says that 1 out of 10 people are victims of phone theft, and Kensington has said that 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7% recovered.

When someone finds or steals your phone, they'll shut it off, pull out the SIM card, then turn it on to see if it's locked. If so, they just try to wipe it and sell it. If not, it's time to look through your photos, read your texts and social DMs, then see what they can find in your email. Losing your phone sucks, no matter how it happens. Losing your phone, then having someone steal your identity on Facebook and charge stuff on your credit cards sucks way more. A simple lock screen is a must nowadays.

We've looked at all the ways you can lock your Galaxy Note 8, and sorted them from best to worst — but even the "worst" isn't bad, it's just not as good as the best! We factored in a few different things to build our list: security, convenience, and ease-of-use. And here it is!

Fingerprint sensor: Best

Yes, the placement of the fingerprint sensor on the Note 8 is terrible compared to the way things used to be. And being a bit taller than even the Galaxy S8+ doesn't help. But it's still the best way to keep your screen locked. It's easy to set up, accurate, and once you get used to reaching for it it's easy to use. Of all the ways you can lock your Note 8, the fingerprint sensor is still the best.

Pattern lock: Good, but slower

Did you know the Android pattern lock is more secure than a four-digit PIN? Crunch the numbers — there are more possible combinations in the pattern lock than there are in four digits, and that means someone is less likely to make the right guess before the phone shuts them out.

Pattern lock is secure and easy — exactly what we want to see in a screen locking method!

That aside, a pattern lock is easy to use and after a few days, you'll be able to do it without looking. The one drawback is that greasy fingers can leave a trail on the screen, so wipe it down every now and then. Especially after eating some greasy finger food.

A PIN or passphrase: An oldie but a goodie

This can be the most secure method to lock your phone. It can also be the least secure. It depends on you! Don't use a PIN like 0000 or your birthday digits. Use something that nobody will guess on the first few tries but you'll still remember it. Nobody can unlock your phone but you if you have a PIN or password to get in, but it's just not as convenient as the first two entries on our list.

Iris scanning: Secure and unreliable

The Iris scanning on your Samsung phone is secure. It can't be fooled unless someone goes to great lengths and has a high-resolution photo of your eyes looking directly into the camera.

If someone has that, you have bigger things to worry about. It's easy to set up (and kind of cool, we admit) but you also need to position your phone in the right spot and at the correct angle to get a good reading and unlock it. Some people find that easy, others not so much. You should give it a try because if you're someone who can get things lined up naturally and easily, this will be number one on your list.

Face recognition: Fast and loose

Samsung has improved the standard Android facial recognition software and it can scan your face faster and look at more areas at once.

Samsung improved Face Recognition but still tells you it isn't secure.

But this is easy to fool with a good photo of your face, and even Samsung doesn't claim face recognition is secure. It is convenient and easy to use though. Decide if you need a little extra security (only you know the answer to this) and if you do, don't rely on face recognition.

Everything you need to know about using facial recognition on your phone

Trusted Location/Device/Voice: Built-in goodness

This goes at the bottom of our list. It's easy to set up (you'll need a secondary Bluetooth device for Trusted Device unlocking) and easy to use. Really, you don't "use" it at all. Under certain conditions, your phone stays unlocked. Like when your phone is in a certain place, connected to a certain Bluetooth device, or hears you say the passphrase. When the person at Starbucks calls your name and you leave your phone on the counter, it's unlocked for anyone to pick up. Setting your phone on the coffee table at home in front of your snoopy roommate keeps it unlocked. Any system that allows your phone to be unlocked when you're not holding it and looking at it is not a secure system.

If you use any Trusted Unlocking method, make sure you have remote wipe and find my phone set up through both Samsung and Google.

How to track your missing Android phone

Gear S3 Frontier and Gear S3 Classic

The important thing is that you use a secure lock screen.

As mentioned at the top of this article, even the worst method on our list is a lot better than nothing. We're picking nits here to choose the best way, but if one works well for you and you use it all the time, it's a good one. once you get used to having a secured lock screen, you'll not have any problems unlocking your phone when you need it. And when you don't need it, you'll know someone can't just pick it up and peek into your private life.

Your turn

What locking method do you use on your phone? If you're getting the Note 8 or already have one, what are you using, and why? Your feedback is important! It helps everyone make a better decision and nothing is better than helping each other.

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.

  • I fully understand why Jerry says what he does about Trusted Devices, and I agree, but I love that option to death. Hell, that's the reason my wife has a Gear S2 now. But beyond that it's finger print scanning all the way for me, even with the horrid placement.
  • The issue with pin or pattern... People can look over your shoulder... Sure you can shield it but 99% of the people that I see using them do not
  • Plus, there may technically be more combinations of pattern, but most people use a simple 2 axis swipe which I could guess in about 2 minutes of trying.
  • With the Pattern, there is an option to turn off "Make The Pattern Visible"
  • Someone could still watch you and duplicate the strokes you took, especially when most people that I see with pattern are using very simple ones. Of course more complicated ones would be more difficult.
  • I use a mix of iris and fingerprint. For me, the iris scanner actually works better than it did on the Note7. That, while fast, was finicky in anything but perfect lighting. The Note8's scanner actually works in low-light and is significantly more reliable, but also has its share of difficulties. I tend to use the finger-scanner more often, and my huge hands mean that using it isn't that difficult. It's still a little awkward though.
  • Agreed. I have both of these set up and use the fingerprint if I'm in the dark (where the iris scan doesn't always work).
  • I do the same. The iris scanner works almost 100% of the time. It is very rare when it doesn't, even with contacts and glasses.
  • Lmao@If someone has that, you have bigger things to worry about.
  • Yeah, been there, done that, lol. I had a friend of my wife who was into taking pictures and video of me like a paparazzi. We were on the way to the beach one day in two cars, and she stopped and bought me a snack, then I look up and she's filming me eat it. Weird.
  • I don't understand why a PIN couldn't be secure! I use fingerprint as my main method but occasionally, i.e. after boot, I use a PIN. And that PIN is 7 digits long! I wanna see that one broken! The likelihood is probably on par with guessing a pattern. On top of it, a potential thief has only 5 guesses before the whole thing factory resets. And without my Google credentials it's game over.
    Unrelated to this: I think bank cards with only a 4 digit PIN are in much greater danger!
  • In the two weeks of owning my Note 8, I have never had to "consciously" place my phone in front of my face for the Iris scanning to work. I just naturally hold my phone and it unlocks it without any issue. It is really fast as well. I have both FPS and Iris scanner setup, and use them interchangeably depending on the situation.
  • Same here. Iris and print are perfect
  • I do the same thing on my S8 plus.
  • Exactly if you use the iris scanner for more then a couple days it'll become second nature it's that good and That fast .
  • Fingerprint scanner placement is fine. Nothing wrong with it. Downside is, you could be forced to unlock it by law enforcement. Pin or pass phrase, they would need a warrant!
  • How can the police make you unlock your phone. I had remember the police taking iPhone to Apple and they still wouldn't open it.
  • Because your password or pin are protected, and police cannot legally have you enter them without a search warrant. You fingerprint is not protected under those laws, so they can have your unlock your phone with your fingerprint. In the Apple case, authorities messed up by changing or trying to change the user's iTunes password. If they had not done that, they could have simply connected to any trusted wifi that the guy had previously used, the phone would have been automatically backed up to the cloud, and Apple would have turned the backup information over (which they have already done before). Jerry, correct me on the details if I got this wrong. It's been a while :)
  • Iris, finger print and bixby voice password for when I'm driving.
  • I use iris and finger print. Facial recognition wasn't working for me because sometimes I have glasses on and sometimes I don't. The iris scanner seems to be working fine with and without the eye glasses.
  • Four number pin. I'm the only one who knows it. About as secure as it comes, and easy with the Note 8 to use. 😏
  • Trusted devices to my gear s3 is my primary followed by iris as my next most used. Flawless for me. Fingerprint only in rare instances like docked in the wireless car charging cradle.
  • I use the finger print sensor and pattern lock. I have a Otter box case on my note 8. And it makes finding the finger print sensor really easy. But I also have big hands. I can see how the finger print sensor would be a problem for someone with smaller hands. And it's kind of mix of the two I use.
  • I use a pin and the iris scanner with only one eye because I was having a hard time getting it to work with both. Now that it's set up I'm loving it. I have the fingerprint set up but it took forever to register and I won't use it. I use trusted places, my house, my car and myself as I wear a FitBit. I also use the iris scanner to sign into saved password protected accounts (Samsung Pass) which is very convenient. I also have a Bixby voice password.
  • I have always used a password only, never have used or care to use anything other than that.
  • Blackberry picture password - though not on the Note 8 😋
  • Fingerprint for me, with a pin required decryption on restart or power up, or for accessing any security features. I used to use trusted location and device, but stopped when I got a device with a fast FP reader. Iris scanning won't work for me, not because of any limitations of the method, but just because I frequently unlock my phone in positions where it can't "see" me. Bedside table, car mount, desk at work, desk at home, propped on a mix console while doing sessions... the phone gets unlocked hundreds of times per week in these positions. My daughter is the queen of passwords and pins. Her pattern is so long it does not matter if you see it or not. Her typical password is about 20 characters.
  • I have an S7 and rely heavily on the fingerprint scanner. I feel that the Note 8, and S8/+ for that matter, would really leave me wanting something more efficient and ergonomic than the current placement of the scanner. I've not used them personally, but I get the feeling it could've been done more elegantly. Also, what is that wallpaper? I need it!
  • If or when you actually use one for more than 3 minutes in a store, your opinion may change.
  • I thought that until I started using a Note8, now I find location great. I am happy the location is on the top back of the phone. Much easier for me to use than on the front of the phone. I also thought I would be unhappy with no home button. After one day of use I found not only did I not miss the home button but I am so happy there are no physical buttons on the front of the phone.
  • Iris as primary mixed with fingerprint if phone is in my pocket. It's unlocked before I can even see the screen. I never had a problem with location of fingerprint scanner perhaps I don't have small hands or maybe I'm more dexterous then others might be who have reviewed the phone because I have not had a problem with the location and unlocking my phone.
    The Iris scanner is amazing as well as I have almost forgotten that this is why my phone unlocks when I pick it up and look at it without touching the fingerprint scanner.
    When my phone has been restarted it defaults to pin which is fine as well.
  • Don't try to use a finger of the hand holding your Note 8. Hold the phone with one hand and use a finger from another, upside down, to unlock with fingerprint. No longer is the location of the finger sensor bad. USE TWO HANDS - it's fast and easy. #AudienceAdvocate - Google it
  • May I ask why you would do this? I have had the Note 8 since Sept 6th. I find the fingerprint sensor in a great place to unlock with one hand. I do it all of the time. The sensor is in a natural place on how I hold the phone. Easy to move my index finger to the sensor.
  • My hands must be smaller than yours.
  • I use a mix of iris, fingerprint and PIN. Most of the time iris unless in bright sunlight, then fingerprint and then PIN when I have to.
  • I have the S8+ but I use trusted device to keep it unlocked in my car but other that I have FPS and a 6 digit PIN setup for me. Being 6'5" the FPS is fine for me. I guess my hands are larger than some people though.
  • Passphrase only for me. if someone wants to open my phone they can get me or Samsung to do it. They're not going to steal my body (parts) to do it.
  • I have the fingerprint scanner set up, but the Note8 required me to set a PIN as well in order to use it. Now, if I press the power button, the lock screen asks for a PIN instead of the fingerprints. If I touch the scanner while AOD is on, it goes to the same lock screen and asks for a PIN. How do I get it to accept the fingerprint scan to unlock the phone without it asking for a PIN?
  • On my wishlist
  • Fingerprint and pattern lock. Shame the trusted places doesn't work with WiFi instead of just Bluetooth...