The One max joins a small but growing list of phones that include a fingerprint scanner for unlocking the device. I’ll leave the discussion about whether fingerprints are fundamentally usernames or passwords for another day, but fingerprint scanners seem to be in vogue right now for mobile phones. You could make the case that the perceived increase in security that comes with fingerprint scanners is both an enterprise or consumer play, again I’ll leave that philosophical discussion for another day. I remember the Motorola Atrix and its fingerprint scanner being a big deal a while ago, since then we’ve had the iPhone 5s dramatically reintroduce the fingerprint scanner and now the One max follow suit.

The One max fingerprint sensor is a swipe type, meaning there’s some kind of strip sensor inside that you swipe your finger across. Sliding your finger over this strip allows the module to scan a 2D region and extract features that are then used to identify a fingerprint. The One max hides this scanner inside a black square that’s slightly recessed on the back of the device, just beneath the camera. I’m reminded somewhat of the LG G2 and its rear-mounted power and volume buttons which also sit just beneath the rear-facing camera. Perhaps that’s a missed opportunity for LG, which could have also gone with a swipe type sensor in its power button. On the One max anyhow there’s no button, just the sensor. Although the fingerprint sensor is recessed slightly, it’s somewhat difficult to locate with just one’s index finger, something that results in inadvertent smudging of the rear-facing camera cover glass, something that didn’t happen as much with the G2 because there’s a larger lip and easily locatable bump.

The placement of the fingerprint sensor makes sense given that of the power button. As stated earlier for right handed users this means your index finger sits naturally near the sensor if your thumb is on the power button. Since the fingerprint button still requires activation to unlock the One max, you still need to press power to turn it on before you can swipe your finger and finally unlock it. I find myself wishing the fingerprint sensor was itself a button, something like the iPhone 5s, so unlocking could be as simple as pressing and swiping with the same finger. On the iPhone 5s the best activation pattern is pressing the home button and leaving the finger in contact with the button.

 

Setup requires you to set a passcode, after which a few training swipes trains the sensor for the finger you’ve chosen. Although the animation that plays shows the finger aligned along the long axis of the phone, for greater accuracy I trained the One max with my finger at the angle it would naturally be given my thumb on the power button. The only requirement given the swipe sensor is that the slide motion is straight down and not skewed.

 

The One max fingerprint sensor allows for up to 3 fingers to be paired, each able to either unlock or have the option of both unlocking and launching an application. I like the idea of fingerprints as shortcuts, something the iPhone 5s implementation lacks, but three fingers seems like a curiously low number given the ten digits humans have to work with. On the other hand, the placement of the button really limits you to middle and index fingers being viable options. In terms of functionality, although Apple doesn’t yet use fingerprints as shortcuts, Apple does use the fingerprint scanner to authenticate iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases, something HTC can’t quite do with the One max for Google Play purchases, at least until Google makes an API for it.

I initially trained the fingerprint sensor with my index finger being swiped straight down, and had some issues with unlocks requiring multiple swipes. Doing finger enrollment and training at an angle closer to how I actually swipe it naturally (at an angle) made the accuracy better, but the reality is that unlocking the One max still requires multiple tries more often than not. There isn’t much processing latency after a scan, but I had hoped the One max sensor would be tap and hold rather than swipe given its shape. I’m not clear what suppliers are involved for the sensor, but I’m told the One max also securely stores just the extracted features and not the fingerprint images (which is a no brainer). I haven’t delved much into the infrastructure used to secure the fingerprint features yet either. I’m also not sure whether the One max learns additional parts of the finger which wasn’t part of initial training the same way Apple’s does.

Although I don’t think anyone has totally nailed the fingerprint sensor yet on a device, the One max implementation definitely is further from perfection than Apple’s. Although it does work reasonably well, it still isn’t the transparent kind of convenience that I feel will compel users who ordinarily wouldn’t have to used a passcode to go and use the fingerprint scanner. I’ve continued using the fingerprint scanner on the One max, however.

Introduction and Hardware Sense 5.5 and Android 4.3
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  • Dentons - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    Brian, we know you hate SD cards and removable batteries. We also know that you are far more impressed by a phone that shows a bit of metal skin than by a phone that has actual features like removable batteries and microSD expansion.

    Your statement that "SD cards are going the way of the dodo" is laughably out of touch. Despite your personal wishes, the best selling smart phones on the planet, in nearly every size category, still have both microSD expansion and removable batteries.

    You don't want these features, we get it. For whatever reason, you embrace the removal of these usable features. You clearly don't appreciate the convenience of being able to carry large volumes of media files at an economical price. Just as clearly, you don't mind having to search for chargers in every airport. Some of us aren't like you, many of us in fact.

    It does seem odd that an in-depth technology site like Anandtech puts far more emphasis on the material making up the thin outer skin of a device, than the actual hardware features of that device. Each of Brian's reviews features a long discussion either lauding a metal skin or deriding a plastic one, while almost nothing on SD or batteries.

    Is it too much to ask for a little less focus on your metal skin fetish and more focus on a device's actual features.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    Good point. Whenever you go to airport, you'll see lots of iPhones getting charged at power outlets. It's beyond me how people can expose their $$$$$ phone that way. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    I see lots of every kind of phone being charged at power outlets, and I'm in airports nearly every week :)

    -Brian
    Reply
  • fenneberg - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    keep dissing your base and you´ll be lost Mr. Klug.
    I am on my third battery and on a SD that holds all of western Europe Garmin quarterly up-dated maps and 45 GB of music on a Garmin-Asus A50 that I love cause it works and works.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    You are the fringe. AT will be just fine. Reply
  • Tegeril - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out? Reply
  • superflex - Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - link

    Dont be silly Brian.
    Samsung phones never need to be recharged. Only sheeple and HTC One owners have to recharge.
    Sheesh
    Reply
  • ddriver - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    It's because apple products don't have mSD slots ;) I bet the moment they start including those (by some miracle of nature I suppose :D ) the extra slot will be the best thing since sliced bread around AT :D Reply
  • sherlockwing - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    Apple won't accept mSD slots on phones, paying Microsoft license fee for every Iphone & Ipad sold due to their FAT 32 patent is too much for them. Reply
  • apertotes - Monday, October 28, 2013 - link

    Completely agree. This Rivendel Aluminum praise is getting old. Phones are tools, not jewels or fashion statements. Reply

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