Security used to be more or less the same on just about every phone. You could set up a PIN or pattern to keep nosy friends out, and there would almost always be a fingerprint sensor built into a home button underneath the display for faster access. These days, as bezels continue to shrink and phone makers simply don’t want anything but screen taking up space on the front of their phones, fingerprint sensors are starting to look a little different, and some are even going away entirely.

Fingerprint sensors have been around for a long while; my first phone with a fingerprint sensor was the Motorola Atrix, back in 2011. After Apple announced Touch ID with the iPhone 5s in 2013, fingerprint sensors have become a standard expectation of every flagship phone. Even budget phones like the Moto E4 are shipping with great fingerprint sensors these days, but in 2017 bezel-less phones are all the rage, and those convenient sensors are being moved elsewhere to make more room for screen up front.

The second most popular location for a fingerprint sensor is centered around back, and LG has been doing this for a few years, starting with the LG G5. It’s typically a comfortable spot because your index finger naturally sits around the area when you’re holding the phone, making it easy to quickly unlock it without needing to give it much thought. On some phones, like the Google Pixel, you can even use the rear fingerprint sensor for gestures, like swiping down to access the phone’s notification shade. The only major downside to rear-mounted sensors is that you aren’t able to use them when your phone is sitting on a surface like a table or wireless charger.

Not all rear fingerprint sensors feel natural though, and there’s been no more widely-bemoaned than Samsung’s recent positioning. Since the Galaxy S8, all of Samsung’s flagships have moved the fingerprint sensor to the upper end of the back. This makes it hard to reach and equally hard to distinguish from the cameras next to it, leading to many users accidentally smudging their cameras as a result.

Because of this awkward placement, Samsung also includes iris scanning and facial recognition as an alternative way to unlock your phone. I have little experience with facial recognition, but the iris scanner works great in mid to low light. It’s nearly unusable in direct sunlight, though, and having to hold your phone at a certain angle is less quick and convenient than using your finger.

Sony’s fingerprint sensor placement seems to perfectly merge convenient placement and easy access no matter the phone’s orientation. It’s integrated into the power button on the side of phones like the Xperia XZ Premium, making unlocking your phone as simple as turning on the display. Sadly, US Sony models have the fingerprint sensor disabled by the software, so you’ll need to either enable it yourself or buy an unlocked model from elsewhere.

What’s your preferred method of securing and unlocking your phone? Or do you even use security on your phone at all?

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About the Author

Hayato is an Indianapolis-based writer and video producer for 9to5Google.