Many details surrounding the Nexus 6 were leaked in the months leading up to the smartphone’s launch in late October, although one oft-rumored tech specification that proved to be absent was a fingerprint scanner akin to Touch ID on the iPhone. The initial reports calling for a fingerprint scanner weren’t necessarily wrong, however, based on new evidence uncovered in Android’s open source code.
Ars Technica reports that Google was prepared to include fingerprint scanner support for both the Nexus 6 and Android Lollipop, although a commit message filed through Android Open Source Project (AOSP) in late August called for removal of that support on “Shamu,” the internal codename for what ultimately became the Nexus 6. The commit simply read “shamu: remove fingerprint support.”
The source code further reveals that fingerprint sensor company Validity Sensors, acquired by touchscreen supplier Synaptics last year, likely provided the hardware for the ill-fated fingerprint scanner. The report claims that it is likely Google included a fingerprint scanner on internal prototypes of the Nexus 6, but removed the hardware shortly before its release.
A few other commit messages filed within Google indicate that the Nexus 6 was going to be the launch device for an entire fingerprint API for Android, with the sensor able to scan, enroll and remove a fingerprint for convenience and enhanced lock screen security. The fingerprint API includes methods like “FINGERPRINT_ACQUIRED_TOO_FAST” that suggest Google’s fingerprint scanner would be swipe based versus stationary like Touch ID.
It is not uncommon for Google to make last-minute changes to its software prior to release. Last year, the company pulled a new camera API in Android 4.4 KitKat as development of the operating system was coming to a close. The camera API didn’t make its return until Android Lollipop was released one year later, which could be how long it takes until a fingerprint scanning service is bundled into a future Android version or Nexus device.