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FingerQ adds fingerprint sensor to Android phones

The PrivacQ case lets you encrypt messages and photos so only another person with the same case and accompanying app can see them.

The FingerQ PrivacQ Case for the Samsung Galaxy S3 adds a fingerprint sensor to the phone. John Chan/CNET Asia

SHANGHAI, China -- FingerQ, a company based in Hong Kong, has made a series of Android cases that come with biometric fingerprint sensors for added security. The sensors don't replace the built-in security features of your Android phone (unlocking your smartphone still uses the passcode or pattern unlock), but adds another layer of protection for chats and applications.

The FingerQ system will be available as an accessory called the PrivacQ case and caters to phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and Note 2, as well as the HTC One. The fingerprint sensor is just one part of the equation, as the company's software also needs to be installed on the handset for the system to work.

Messages and images sent securely cannot be seen unless the receiving party swipes an enrolled finger. John Chan/CNET Asia

The primary use of the case is through the FingerQ Chat application. The app lets you communicate with another FingerQ user securely by encrypting the messages sent. To read an encrypted message, you have to first swipe a finger that has been initially linked to your case. It lets you send a photo the same way.

Because the PrivacQ case is bound to a phone, you lose access to the encrypted messages and photos if the case is removed or lost. This also means if your phone gets stolen, the thief cannot simply remove the case to read your FingerQ Chat messages or photos.

According to a company spokesperson, the case is targeted at business users who need something more secure than standard messaging services. It's also useful for any users who value the privacy of their chats.

Here's what you see when the fingerprint doesn't match. John Chan/CNET Asia

In addition, FingerQ also allows you to "lock" other apps in your Android smartphone. For example, you can make it such that a finger swipe is necessary to open the Chrome browser or the image gallery, so a busybody who's browsing your phone casually won't be able to access apps you want protected.

FingerQ is working to add more functions to the provided software, including add-ons that let you encrypt messages in other popular IM apps and one to encrypt selected images in your photo gallery--so these can only be accessible after authentication with the case.

To combat the scenario of a cut on your finger or the biometric sensor not detecting your digits properly, an override password can also be set.

The FingerQ PrivacQ Case will be available through the company's partners in the U.S. and Hong Kong come July, with broader availability expected later in the year. It's estimated to retail at between $40 and $60.

Users can also lock apps -- in this case, the Chrome browser. John Chan/CNET Asia

(Source: Crave Asia)