You’ve probably seen loads of videos on YouTube where people are able to trick smartphone fingerprint sensors using tape or putty. It’s an unlikely scenario, but still proof that the added security of fingerprint sensors to keep our devices locked still isn’t perfect.
But now there’s something better.
Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7, which goes on sale later this month, has an infrared iris scanner that can be used to unlock your phone in lieu of a passcode or fingerprint. You can also set up a secure folder for apps and other personal files that can only be unlocked with your iris. (The Note 7 only stores one iris pattern at a time, so no one but you can use the feature.)
I tested the Note 7’s iris scanning feature a few days ago, and it worked pretty well. You program it in the same security setting as the fingerprint scanner, and it only takes one scan for the Note 7 to record your iris. There’s an infrared sensor on the front that scans your eye. You line your iris up with the sensor thanks to a funky interface that reminds me of the inside of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit from all the Marvel movies:
After that, you can unlock the phone by swiping the lock screen and peeping into the infrared sensor. It’s lightning fast too. In one test, the Iron Man interface didn’t even have a chance to show up because the phone had already scanned my iris and unlocked itself.
Iris scanning is also more secure than fingerprint scanning, since it’s almost impossible to spoof. Samsung says it’ll only work with living tissue and can’t be tricked by a high-resolution photos of your iris. So unless someone knocks you out and then holds your unconscious head up to the Note 7’s iris scanner, you’re pretty safe.
Samsung had been rumored to be working on iris scanning technology for years, but this is the first time it actually put it in a major phone.
Microsoft’s latest Lumia Windows Phone, which launched last fall, also includes an iris scanner. But this will be the first major smartphone to implement the technology at scale.