According to our friends over at Ars, a commit removed support for a fingerprint scanner on the Nexus 6 at the end of August. The Nexus 6 in it’s current form was leaked late in July by Android Police where they nailed pretty much every spec in the phone (including the controversial 5.9 QHD screen) where they gave us details that the next Nexus was supposed to rock a fingerprint scanner.
Fingerprint scanners have come into the spotlight more in the past year with the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6Plus first introducing it on a widely sold phone. They’ve gotten pretty solid reviews since they’ve come out and Apple is taking on a new challenge now with Apple Pay that simply wouldn’t be possible without it’s fingerprint scanner. I don’t believe this is Google’s response to Apple. Google generally develops features on their own timeline and sometimes they happen to release around the same time as other companies. I do think this is Google trying to add security features for their phones. Adding Knox into AOSP shows Google is getting serious about security and in turn, the business sector.
Within the API are found methods such as “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_FAST” and “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_SLOW”. To me this says they’re banking on a sensor more like Samsung has in the S5 rather than Apple has in the iPhone which is a press and read instead of a swipe and read. In my opinion, this is a flawed approach. While they might get stick from people about having a similar method to Apple, it would be worth not using a flawed method isntead. Swiping your finger on the back or bottom of a phone to have it read your fingerprint is awkward. When you’re trying to handle a huge cell phone that doesn’t really fit in one hand anyway, are you really going to want to try and find the scanner and while not dropping your $650 computer on the ground? No thanks
This forward movement is commendable by Google as it needs to continue adding features to AOSP. Stock Android is a little bare feature-wise compared to skinned ROMS like HTC’s Sense (who had a fingerprint scanner on the HTC One Max), Samsung’s Touchwiz (The S5 has a fingerprint scanner), LG’s Optimus UI (who uses KnockCode instead of fingerprint scanning) and Sony and Motorola (neither of which have released a phone with a scanner in the last 3 years.) Hopefully in future releases we’ll see features like Samsung’s MultiWindow and LG’s Smart keyboard which has the ability to be resized to the user’s preference now that we’re getting much larger phones from Google.
My pet theory here is that one thats bounced around the internet a little bit recently. The theory goes that Google was in line to kill the Nexus line and replace it with Android Silver. Android Silver was supposed to be a line of near stock flagship phones that would sell for flagship prices. Supposedly the Nexus 6 (Shamu) was originally the Moto S, an Android Silver device. When they decided to either not go forward with Android Silver or delay it, they scrambled to put out a new Nexus device and the Moto S was the best choice given Google’s close relationship to Moto and being an existing Android Silver device. This would make sense that the sensor commit was killed since Motorola hasn’t shipped a phone with a fingerprint scanner since the Atrix 4G.
Fingerprint scanners are becoming increasingly popular. Apple’s iPhone 6 has one of, if not the best out there with near instant recognition of your finger and Samsung and HTC have released phones in the past year or two that featured scanners that came with less plaudits due to some issues with placement on the phone and accuracy of the scan. But you have to wonder about Google’s play with AOSP support of fingerprint scanners. Is Google worried about a recently ruling that will force people unlock their phones if they use a fingerprint in the wake of security concerns? Was it just a lack of hardware that made them kill the feature? And when will we see this make a comeback. If you remember, the updated camera API was pulled right before a major release then re-introduced in KitKat.
But hopefully this is a step toward a more feature rich AOSP.