When it comes to fingerprint security on a smartphone, slow and inaccurate reads that waste time are the only things worse than having no fingerprint reader at all. For impatient types like me, fast, reliable biometric scanning unlocks the phone sooner, and gets me on my way to doing something actually important, like scrolling through Facebook Liking pictures of my friends' pets and kids.
But fingerprint readers are becoming increasingly important for authenticating your identity on other systems, too, like opening banking apps without having to type in a password, and giving mobile payments the green light to make a transaction. Those activities become frustrating on phones with unreliable readers.
Here are the ones that shine.
This is a niche phone that comes in a stylized shape with an unusual color option. The cloud storage solution and I don't always see eye to eye, but one thing I do love is that the handset's power/lock button doubles as a fingerprint reader. This means my thumb fits over the entire target area, which helps unlock the phone, error-free in a snap. (NextBit has updated some of the software and I'll be taking a look soon.)
Like the Nextbit Robin, these two straight-sided phones handle very well, especially when you need to use one hand. Extremely fast-acting unlocking gets you into the phone in an instant. That placement on the right side is incredibly convenient for right-handers as well, since it sits in a spot where your thumb is already used to resting. The one major downside -- and it is major -- is that Sony phones in the US cut out fingerprint reader capability. Sony won't give us a straight answer as to why, but that makes this both one of the best and worst phones for this.
This phone impressed all the editors here with its combination of monetary value and good performance. Plus, it's metal, which is always nice (even if that's the current trend). One thing that stood out was how accurate the fingerprint reader is on the phone's back. This isn't my all-time favorite location, since I had to sometimes stretch my (admittedly smaller) hand to reach the dimple of a reader. I also don't love having to guess about its location, since you can't see it there on the back. Finally, when the phone's laying down on a table, you have to lift it to unlock biometrically, or you have to swipe and enter a pin.
So why does it make this list? Because other editors felt their (longer) fingers naturally fall into place, and we all remarked on the phone's accuracy and speed once you got there.
It isn't at all surprising that this phone makes the cut, since Huawei built both the Nexus 6P and this high-end P9. Huawei pretty much has this technology on lock.
If these seem like an obvious choice to you, it's for a reason. Apple was the first to popularize the fingerprint reader (which it calls Touch ID), and placing it in a round, thumb-shaped depression on the phone's face is still more practical than putting those sensors on the phone's rear. This location takes the guesswork out of where to nest your finger (or thumb) and makes it easy to use if the phone is lying face-up on a table -- you don't have to pick it up to unlock the device. Samsung's more rectangular, Tic-Tac home button/reader is somehow harder to put your finger on.