Device security is a major factor these days. Google implemented device encryption in Android 5.0 (Lollipop), but according to a commit that’s been discovered in AOSP, there was originally supposed to be a hardware component to device security on the Nexus 6, right up until a few months before release.
The commit was discovered by Ars Technica and prove just how quickly manufacturers can adapt to design changes. A commit to AOSP at the end of August, lablled ‘shamu: remove fingerprint support’ was added, effectively ending support for fingerprint scanners on the device. Shamu of course is the code-name for the Nexus 6, so that lines up with the hardware. Hardware wise, the line ‘system/vendor/lib/hw/ValidityPersistentData:synaptics’ points to hardware support from Validity Sensors, Inc., a company involved in the manufacture and development of fingerprint sensors, which was acquired by Synaptics last year.
Further commits, show that Google intended to release a complete fingerprint API to tie-in with the hardware component, paving the way for further devices to include Fingerprint scanners. Fingerprint scanning could have been used as a way to authenticate from the lock-screen, joining Face Unlock, Pin and Pattern as ways to unlock your phone. It could also apparently have been used as a way to open apps.
Secure access ties in with Google’s work with the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) alliance, who just released a version 1.0 spec of their proposed standard for a Universal Authentication Framework. This framework actually supports Fingerprint scanners such as the one found on the iPhone 6, albeit through some clever work from FIDO Alliance founding member Nok Nok Labs.
While fingerprint scannning isn’t present on the Nexus 6, perhaps we’ll see more work on this in Android M, and the next Nexus phone or tablet, as device and information security becomes more and more important moving forward.
Would you use fingerprint scanning on your phone to secure information?