A deep dive into the Galaxy S5's snappy fingerprint scanner

A swipe of your digit is all it takes for your unique prints to unlock the phone so you can pay for goods. Here's what CNET's Jessica Dolcourt thinks of it.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read
Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor explained
Watch this: Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor explained

BARCELONA, Spain -- Samsung didn't shed many details about the fingerprint scanner on its new Galaxy S5 smartphone, but I had a chance to set up and use the security feature here at the show.

First, the basics. Samsung's sensor is on the bottom portion of the screen, not integrated into the home button as I originally thought. To unlock the phone with your finger, you swipe along the glowing path about half an inch from the bottom of the phone, going down and over the home button.

Setup took just a few minutes, after swiping my finger eight times along the sensitive portion of the screen to fully read my print. You're able to register only three profiles, for your own fingers or for someone else's.

The swiping area seems like it's pretty limited to a narrow, vertical strip. That means your finger has to be more or less vertical to succeed, which also means that you will probably need to hold the Galaxy S5 with one hand while unlocking it with the other. I chose my index finger.

Scanning for prints worked pretty well, but I did experience some misfires if my finger wasn't correctly aligned or if I moved too quickly. If you do error out, you can also access the phone through a 4-digit backup PIN.

Overall, I like Samsung's approach to biometric unlocking, and it's something I'd use, especially if I were going to buy products through PayPal's fingerprint-scanning verification program. For a step-by-step guide to getting started, check out the gallery below.

Samsung Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner in action (pictures)

See all photos

Catch all the mobile news from Mobile World Congress 2014.