Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes a massive Galaxy S10 security problem, Samsung upgrades Galaxy with new One UI beta, the Galaxy S10 Lite leaks, first reviews of the OnePlus 7T Pro, the Pixel 4 launches with another security issue, Huawei’s strong sales, and a flash of diamond from Honor.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
One Fingerprint To Unlock Them All
Following reports from a Samsung Galaxy S10 user in the UK, it appears there are circumstances where the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the flagship smartphone will register any fingerprint as an enrolled fingerprint and unlock the device when certain screen protectors are used. Tim Anderson reports for The Register:
Lisa Neilson from Castleford, West Yorkshire, discovered that, having registered her right thumb on the device with a screen protector fitted, “any print unlocked the phone” – including her husband’s.
A screen protector is designed to be transparent to the eye, but not to an ultrasonic pulse. Possible reasons for the flaw are either that the sensor sees the protector as well as the finger, to the extent that the protector plus another finger is detected as similar, or that it too much distorts the ultrasonic image.
With the volume of news around the story, Samsung has been quick to respond, detailing the issues and indicating a security patch will roll out soon.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Thursday it will soon roll out a software patch to fix problems with fingerprint recognition on its flagship Galaxy S10 smartphone.
…The issue can happen when patterns of some protectors that come with silicone phone cases are recognized along with fingerprints, the South Korean tech giant said in a notice on its customer support app.
Samsung Galaxy’s New One UI Is Here
Android 10 arrives on Samsung’s Galaxy handsets this week as a public beta of One UI 2.0 has been launched. Those interested can sign up for the beta at the South Korean company’s website. As well as running the latest version of Android, I’ve highlighted a number of new features in One UI 2.0, including its configurable camera:
With photography a key component of any smartphone, and one of the major factors in deciding which smartphone to purchase – Samsung has reduced the initial complexity of the UI by bundling some of the more advanced features under the ‘more’ tab, but is also making it easier for each user to personalise the camera app to their own liking.
Is Samsung Preparing The Galaxy S10 Lite?
Samsung is working on a handful of phones with serial numbers that match up to the Galaxy S ad Galaxy Note families, and sources suggest that these are ‘Lite’ versions of the main handsets. It certainly fits in with Samsung’s policy of having multiple options at every sensible price point, but is there enough room for more flagship variants? Abhijeet Mishra reports:
As usual, we don’t make any claims that all this information is 100% accurate. But, it does seem like Samsung’s next step in flooding the market with as many phones as possible will include lower-priced variants of its flagship smartphones. That makes sense for something like the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, which would have an S Pen to differentiate itself, but the Galaxy S10 Lite may not be so logical, especially if it ends up being practically the same phone as the Galaxy A91.
First Reviews Of The OnePlus 7T Pro
The OnePlus 7T Pro is the fourth major handset from the Shenzhen-based manufacturer this year, and it adds to the accomplished feature set from the summer’s 7 Pro with the new macro camera mode, the latest version of Oxygen OS, and a buff on the specs. Scott Scrivens takes his first look at the handset, including the updated camera:
The camera hardware is unchanged except for an additional focusing motor on the 16MP wide-angle lens, allowing for a new Macro Mode. Otherwise, we’re looking at the same 48MP (binned down to 12MP) main camera, 8MP telephoto with 3x lossless zoom, and 16MP front-facing selfie cam. The OnePlus 7 series came with processing improvements that brought the phones almost in line with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones when at their best, but I’m not sure there are any further gains to be had here. The macro mode is nice to have, and low light performance does seem slightly improved, but I’ll reserve judgment for the full review.
Google Surprises Nobody With Pixel 4 Launch
After almost every feature was trailed in advance, Google officially launched the Pixel 4 and Pixel XL this week, with the headline features of a 90Hz screen, facial recognition, and the ability to recognise gestures in the air thanks to the Soli radar chip. Stephen Hall reports:
The first thing you’ll notice is the sizable top bezel on the front, which houses the Soli radar chip, the speaker, a single front shooter, and the suite of sensors for face unlock. Other familiar aesthetic flourishes like a colored lock button and the usual ‘G’ logo on the back are also in tow.
Things get a little interesting with the display specs. Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will have 5.7-inch and 6.3-inch OLED displays, respectively — the smaller is Full HD+, while the larger is Quad HD+. We can confirm now, though, that both will be 90 Hz displays, a feature Google is planning to call ‘Smooth Display’.
In other Pixel 4 specs, the smaller 5.7-inch Google Pixel 4 will have a 2,800 mAh battery, while the larger model will have a 3,700 mAh battery. Both devices will pack the Snapdragon 855, get an appreciated bump to 6GB of RAM, and will be available in both 64GB and 128GB variants in the United States.
Google Confirms Pixel 4’s First Big Problem
Still, the launch has not gone without issue. The BBC’s Chris Fox has reported that the facial recognition element of the handset does not require the face being scanned to be ‘alert and active’. Which means a sleeping face can unlock the handset:
Google has confirmed the Pixel 4 smartphone’s Face Unlock system can allow access to a person’s device even if they have their eyes closed.
… Google’s Pixel 4 support website tells customers: “Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed.” It says concerned customers can switch on “lockdown” mode – which deactivates facial recognition – when they want enhanced security.
And as John Gruber notes, that hands Apple a hardware advantage:
It’s right there in Google’s own support document for the Pixel 4: “Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed.”
Sounds like it’s still only Apple’s, which is now in its third-generation of devices. Biometric authentication is an area where Apple has been, and remains, several years ahead of all its competitors.
Huawei’s Strong Sales
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has reported its third quarter results. Although the company has been facing a number of business issues from the US Government, the numbers announced by the privately held company are still strong, as Raymond Zhong notes:
The United States added Huawei to an export blacklist in May, restricting its access to many of the American-origin parts it needs to make its smartphones and telecom gear and causing the company’s revenue growth to take a hit. But sales from January to September were $86 billion, an increase of nearly 25 percent from a year earlier, Huawei said. That implies, based on comparisons with previously released figures, that sales accelerated in the July-to-September quarter.
It’s not quite a flash of Victorian ankle, but the upcoming Honor 9X has been spotted. With a reflective pattern etched into the back panel, its going to be visually distinctive… assuming you don’t put it in a case! Tom Bedford takes a closer look:
There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear of the handset, which is also adorned with a unique rear pattern that reveals an X-shape when light shines on it – you can see this design in the photo above.
We don’t currently have an exact release date or price for the Honor 9X in Europe or the UK, but we expect it to hear more from Honor on that soon.
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!