There’s a lot to like about Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy S8 and S8+, like the gorgeous “Infinity” displays, faster performance, improved selfie camera. Hell, there’s even a headphone jack!
But can we talk about the fingerprint sensor for a minute? More specifically, the awful, terrible place Samsung decided to relocate it to.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know it was coming. Thanks to a steady flow of high-resolution leaked images that made their way onto the internet over the last few months, we’ve known for some time that the S8 wouldn’t have a fingerprint sensor/home button on the front.
Samsung’s explanation is simple: To make room for a larger display with an 83 percent screen-to-body ratio, the fingerprint sensor had to be go.
With no space on the thin bottom bezel to house a fingerprint sensor/home button, Samsung really didn’t have many options left.
It could have removed the fingerprint sensor altogether, but that would have been a step backwards for phone security and would have broken Samsung Pay, which uses a person’s fingerprint to authenticate credit card transactions.
I’m annoyed at precisely where Samsung decided to put it: off-center, next to the camera.
Another option would have been to embed the fingerprint sensor underneath the display. And while that might have been the original plan, a report from The Investor published in early March said Samsung had to abandon this idea because Synaptics, the company it had poured resources into helping develop the tech, “ran out of time” to make it happen for the S8.
With both of the above not really options, Samsung basically had no choice but to put the fingerprint sensor on the back.
I’m not upset the fingerprint sensor is on the back. I’m annoyed at precisely where Samsung decided to put it: off-center, next to the 12-megapixel camera. You don’t need to ever touch the S8 to picture how terrible this is.
As I’ve said before, I’m fine with rear-positioned fingerprint sensors. Lots of Android phones, like the Google Pixels and LG G6, have the sensors on the back. But they get it right and have them dead center – exactly where your index finger rests or can naturally move to.
On the S8 and S8+, you’ve got to reach your index finger up towards the left, past the camera, to get to the fingerprint sensor. And if you’ve got smaller hands, you’re definitely going to need to shimmy the phone down in your palm to access it. It’s not easy or intuitive.
The biggest problem is, of course, how smudged up the rear camera lens will get from your finger if you miss and touch it instead. Because you will miss. I did a few mock fingerprint unlock tests and missed more than 50 percent of the time. Better keep a micro-fiber cloth handy unless you want blurry photos.
Samsung gets around needing to use the fingerprint sensor too much by including facial recognition and iris scanner unlock options, but neither work with Samsung Pay.
You may be reading this and thinking I’m overreacting, but I’m most definitely not. It’s the little things that matter and add up to phone experience that’s either great or sucks. Though the fingerprint sensor’s odd position doesn’t necessarily ruin the S8, it’s still frustrating to see Samsung accept such a frustrating compromise. I might be more forgiving if this was a design choice on one of Samsung’s midrange or budget phones, but the S8 is a premium phone, and in 2017 that means getting all the details right.