Are You Giving BlackBerry The “Finger”? Fingerprint Investigated

Oh c’mon, you know what I meant! I’m talking about the fingerprint sensor on the BlackBerry Dtek60, and the soon to be released Mercury. Sheesh.

OK, now that we have that cleared up Let’s talk about the good and bad of using one of your digits to unlock your phone or even an app that is on your phone.

For the longest time I never even thought about using a fingerprint sensor. Mostly because as a BlackBerry user I had no access to one, and I really didn’t care or feel like I was missing out. During this time we saw other handsets come out with a “digit grabber” with varying degrees of success. Some put the sensor on the back of the handset like the Dtek60 has, and some had it embedded on the home button. The Mercury takes it one step further and embeds the sensor into the space bar on the lovely keyboard. Cool!

Well that’s all fine and dandy, but so what? How well does it work? Is it better than the “Picture password” that I’ve been using since BlackBerry 10 came out with the idea? Is it more secure than a good password? Where are your fingerprints stored, and who/what has access to them? Do you really need it?

How well does it work?

In my testing with the awesome Dtek60 handset, I’d say it works very well, and it’s fast! If you have Daydream enabled with news and weather, you do have to double tap the screen first, same as getting to enter a password. Placing your finger on the sensor gives a short vibration, and unlocks your phone in a heartbeat! Two vibrations means the sensor did not read your print properly, resulting in your trying again. Failure is rather rare, and you can try again immediately. Nicely done. I also set fingerprint access to my BlackBerry Password Keeper app. Same experience, fast and easy.

Is it better than Picture Password, or a regular strong password?

No, not in my opinion. Both Picture password and a regular keyboard based password are stored in your head. Nobody can use them unless they know them. We’ve all heard or read stories about how kids get a parents print whilst they sleep and then they’re off buying truckloads of Pokemon or other goodies. Or spouses snooping in their better half’s handset. On top of that, security at a border may or may not wish to gain entry into a handset. A fingerprint is a no brainer, but a password not so much, especially with BlackBerry’s “10 tries and you’re out” system.

fingerprint

Where are your fingerprints stored?

Most devices initially store your print on the handset itself, and BlackBerry is no exception. It sits in an encrypted container that only the handset has access to, and only when needed. That is the way Apple did it at the beginning, but then things changed when Apple secured a patent that allowed the print metadata to be stored in iCloud for use in future payment systems etc. For some reason that makes me uncomfortable. That’s just me. I hear horror stories of some phone manufacturers sending info back to “the mothership” (who knows what exactly) and I’m not a fan of that either. I feel very comfortable that BlackBerry and TCL have our back in this regard.

Do you really need it?

Well that is somewhat subjective I’d say. I lived so long without a fingerprint sensor that I personally don’t find it to be a big deal at all. I feel that my picture password is more secure, and that I think outweighs the speed and convenience of my “digit grabber”. I think maybe I’ll leave it on my Password Keeper app though… for now. Remember, just because the handset comes with it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Fact is it’s there if you want it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of the advent of fingerprint scanners on BlackBerry devices? Are you keen to get it? If you buy a new handset will you use it? If so, how?

See you in the comments!

Dave out.

Canuckvoip

Dave Matthews here. I'm a phone guy by trade supplying VOIP systems for business and industry. BlackBerry devices, playing PRS guitars in my band, golf, and RC flight are my current passions.

  • leverspro

    This is an important discussion. At this point I don’t think I’d be comfortable in giving my fingerprint away to so many sources. But at the same time it would annoy me to have such a cool convenience and not use it.

    • Dave Matthews

      Funny isn’t it? We who have been brought up with privacy and security in mind are skeptical it would seem.

    • Agree with you Leverspro, you’d just have to try it right? And once it’s tried…..

  • Alan

    I don’t have a phone with a fingerprint sensor at the moment. I doubt I would use it. We have this option at work to access some computers. I have always used a password instead. My fingerprint is very private, and the thought of having it potentially compromised is a real turn off for me. I don’t think I will ever use it. Privacy is important. I believe once your fingerprint is out there in some digital scanned fashion or another you have potentially given up some degree of privacy that you would never be able to take back. Why risk such a personal potential tragedy?! It’s just not for me.

    • Dave Matthews

      The good thing about it is that you don’t have to use it. I suspect all BB handsets will have a reader from here on though.

      • Alan

        You may be right Dave. It’s all about choice(s). I will bring God into this: “Thank God we still have choices”. Lol :)

        • Dave Matthews

          There ya go! If it were forced on me I’d feel different about it for sure. I never used it until I wrote the article today!

  • AnDrewiD

    I haven’t given BlackBerry the finger and I won’t. But I have been giving them my thumbs for over a decade now.
    I’m wary of using something so personal which I can’t change for “security” on something that is and can be connected to so many systems. It’s bad enough that now I have to give away my fingerprints when entering some countries.

    • Dave Matthews

      I totally get the idea of limiting your exposure. Thanks for reading.

  • leverspro

    Then there’s that front facing camera on every phone! Don’t want to sound paranoid but couldn’t that be used to record your retina bio?

  • Great write up! I am a HUGE fan of Picture Password. I think its an incredible innovation. I do not like using my biometrics for the reasons you outlined above. I can probably access my device via Picture Password maybe fractions of a second slower than a fingerprint. And no one has my biometric on their server.

    Plus, if anyone tried to unlock my Priv, I have a record of it. Does this work with the fingerprint scanner? Can you tell when someone has tried to unlock your device? Are there limited number of attempts? It may not matter as much since you either have the fingerprint or you don’t, but I’m curious.

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