By now, most of you know that Apple has implemented fingerprint scanner in their latest iPhone model, and while not too many Android devices have this feature yet, for those who’d want such an option, there is a workaround. Granted that the solution isn’t a device which you strap on your Android smartphone, it is an app which works by reading and analyzing fingerprints.
ICE Unlock Fingerprint Secure is the app in question, and while this isn’t the only app on the Play Store who claims to have the possibility to read fingerprints, it is one of the few out there who does actually work. I’ve tested the app for a few days, and to my surprise, it actually came through. Here’s a quick overview of what ICE Unlock Fingerprint Secure can do and how it works.
How ICE Unlock Works – Is Your Privacy Secure?
The first thing to mention here is the fact that this is a free Android app which can be installed from the Play Store on pretty much any device. Even so, I would advise users who own older Android devices to avoid it due to the fact that it needs a good camera to take the picture and some processing power to analyze it.
The developers of the app, Diamond Fortress Technologies, have implemented a software called ONYX in this app, which allows it to take a picture of the owner’s fingerprint and from it, create a template using their proprietary algorithms. Once the template is created, the picture is destroyed and all information about the user’s fingerprints is stored locally, on the device.
This addresses the issue regarding privacy, so users can rest assured that their biometric information is not known to either the company which developed the app or any other third party. The stored template will be cross-referenced to a picture taken each time someone tries to unlock the device.
Using ICE Unlock as a fingerprint unlock for Android
Setting up the app isn’t all that hard (depending on how still your hands are): the user is required to set up a PIN which can be used in cases when your fingerprint isn’t recognized or you can’t actually scan it. This is somewhat of a fail-safe option, and I’m glad they’ve added it to the app.
After setting up the PIN, you will be required to scan your fingerprint using the smartphone’s camera. There are video instructions within the app which tell you how to do this, but basically, you need to keep your index finger about 5-6 cm from the camera, or for the finger to cover all the eclipse on the screen and then take a photo by touching the screen of your device. After the picture is taken it will then translate it into a template and ask you to repeat the process and verify that it works.
This is where a good camera, preferably with an LED flash will help. Also, a good smartphone is necessary for the analysis to be done quickly. I’ve tested the app on a Samsung Galaxy S III, where it worked like a charm, with next to no hitches in the setup process or regular uses. These results were similar on a Motorola Moto G. However, when tried on an older Google Nexus S, the app worked pretty slowly with many “Fingerprint doesn’t match” errors.
If your device has a good camera and some processing power, then you can use this app fairly easy, however I believe that the question here is “how easy is it to use on a daily basis?”. Unfortunately for me, the answer would be “not too easy”, as each time you want to unlock your device, you have to take a picture of your finger.
Not taking into account the way one would look, taking pictures of his/hers finger all day long, when you’re in transit and you just want to take a quick look at an email or give a call, it’s just easier to skip the hole scanning and punch in the PIN. Of course, if you want to brag to others of how your phone can read your fingerprint, ICE Unlock is the perfect app for that.
Testing the app & Conclusion
In trying to see if the app actually works like advertised, I’ve asked others to try and scan their fingerprints and surely enough, it didn’t work. The came can be said about not positioning your finger in the designated area, which some might see like a drawback of using this app. Furthermore, when testing on the lower-spec Nexus S, the “reading” of the fingerprint took a long time and on more than one occasion it returned an error even if I scanned my finger like indicated by the guide.
Overall, ICE Unlock is pretty good app, works well on good Android phones, and unlike most apps which claim to scan fingerprints, it actually works. On the downside, it is somewhat tedious to use, and most of the time you’ll find yourself using the PIN instead. The company’s effort is laudable, but the app could be made more user-friendly by allowing the user to scan their finger more easily (like not trying every time to fill the eclipse).
If you want to give ICE Unlock Fingerprint Secure a try, head over to the Play Store and download it on your device.