Google invites you to get your fingerprints all over Android M

Google's new Android M operating system will not only let users open their devices with a fingerprint, it also gives developers free rein to bundle fingerprint-sensing in their apps.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Watch this: Full fingerprint sensor support coming to Android

Your fingerprint is now going to play a central role in the new Android M experience.

Google's newly announced operating system Android M will come with fingerprint-sensing technology. Consumers will be able to use the feature to unlock a device and make secure payments through Google's new mobile payments system, Android Pay. The technology can also be integrated into third-party applications, the company said Thursday.

Adding a fingerprint-sensor, rumored for well over a year, is an important step for Google and Android. Microsoft, Apple and Samsung, among others, have already integrated fingerprint-sensing technology into their products.

The announcement was made during Google's annual conference for software developers, I/O, being held Thursday and Friday in San Francisco. Google I/O is one of the biggest events for the company as its shares the latest developments in its world-leading Android mobile operating system.

Google has added fingerprint support across the entirety of Android M. James Martin/CNET

Google has been increasingly ambitious about expanding its scope of products beyond its juggernaut search engine. Its search and advertising business is still the most dominant in the world, making more than $50 billion a year. But as the Internet evolves, CEO Larry Page has been looking for new future revenue streams. The company has made big bets in everything from smartphones to wearable devices to driverless cars.

Millions of consumers are now using their fingerprints to unlock their mobile devices, thanks to the popularity of Apple iPhones and iPads and Samsung Galaxy S smartphones. Security experts note that fingerprint sensors are more secure than passcodes.

But the sensors aren't just useful for unlocking devices. They also serve as the crux of Apple's and Samsung's mobile payment systems, using your finger's unique characteristics to confirm your identity and make a purchase. Developers are increasingly adding support for Apple's biometric system TouchID, making it easy for their customers to open mobile apps with just a touch of their finger. These include financial apps like Mint and American Express, shopping apps like Amazon.com and file-sharing apps such as Dropbox. By 2019, people will be downloading fingerprint-enabled apps more than 770 million times a year, according to Juniper Research.

Adding fingerprint support to Android M puts Google's operating system on equal footing with Apple's iOS mobile operating system. Google said the feature can be used for making purchases in Google's Android-based marketplace, Play Store. Several companies, including Target, have already started to integrate the fingerprint feature into test builds of their Android apps and plan to integrate the feature "later this year."