Months before the Nexus 6 was officially announced, we reported on August 9 that the Nexus 6 was likely to come with fingerprint sensor. But the device hit the stores last month without a fingerprint scanning feature. Turns out, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) had a whole setup for reading fingerprints on the Nexus 6. According to Ron Amadeo of ArsTechnica, Android 5.0 Lollipop also had a fingerprint API with app support.
An early Nexus 6 prototype had a fingerprint reader made by Validity Sensors
The source code in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) reveals that Google had fingerprint support from Nexus 6 ahead of its release. What’s more, the commit added that the necessary hardware for fingerprint feature was supplied by Validity Sensors Inc, which was acquired by Synaptics, Incorporated (NASDAQ:SYNA) last year. Synaptics supplies touchscreen controllers to smartphone vendors.
Amadeo says that the fingerprint technology was originally included in a Nexus 6 prototype, but was removed in the later stages. A Nexus 6 teardown by iFixit shows that the final version of the phone doesn’t have a hardware supporting fingerprint. Synaptics has developed touchscreen-based fingerprint sensors. But Motorola, which manufactures Nexus 6, picked Atmel as its touchscreen supplier.
Nexus 6 was supposed to have a swipe style fingerprint reader
This commit says some of the fingerprint code was pulled from Android Lollipop. Another commit says the fingerprint sensor was a lockscreen security challenge. It supported a “swipe” style of reading fingerprints, where users were required to move their finger at the right speed across the sensor. By comparison, Apple’s new iPhones have a stationary fingerprint sensor.
Fingerprint technology will require a new hardware. Google is expected to add it to the next iteration of Nexus, which will likely run a new version of Android. Such things have happened in the past. Android 4.4 KitKat originally had a new camera API, which was removed in the late stage of development. Anyway, the new camera API arrived with Lollipop.
We won’t be surprised if fingerprint API is added in Android 5.1 sometime next year.