Biometrics as Human Interface: HTC One max Code Leak Implies New Functionality

Now that Touch ID has fired the proverbial starter’s pistol on the smartphone fingerprint sensors race, with an ETA for Android devices slowly counting down, the simple information that the next HTC mobile will be sporting its own biometric lock is not remarkable news on its own – that sort of thing is to be expected at this point in the game.  Leaked code from the HTC One max fingerprint sensor setup is implying a novel use of the biometric scanner.

Reported by androidandme.com on Thursday of last week, the new HTC phone (rumored to be the largest model yet) might hit the shelves with a fingerprint sensor that can be customized for quick launch applications. The code reveals that a template of each of the user’s fingers can be individually enrolled and assigned to an app, so that unlocking the phone with her left index finger will open her Gmail, for instance, while her right pinky will bring up Angry Birds.

This is a unique functionality, to have ten quick-start biometric keys, is interesting, but the scope of what it will mean for users is obviously going to be a matter for time and the market to decide. Fingerprint biometrics, like gesture based shortcuts, are much more intuitive than traditional navigation methods and PIN based locks, so the potential for a user to pick up her HTC One max solely to check her Facebook and using her assigned Facebook finger to instantly open the app seems like a great convenience.

The only skepticism about the solution, however come to what this might mean for the actual security of the device. One of the biggest conveniences that biometrics can bring to smartphones is an easy to use, better than a PIN, authentication factor, but as was seen in the days following the Touch ID launch: fingerprint sensors can be spoofed. Unless this is a secondary functionality, to be accessed after one designated finger is used to unlock the phone, then it can be ten times as easy for a criminal to spoof its way into the device.