Globally, phone makers offer either finger print or eye scanners to unlock high end phones. India may push the trend with its Aadhaar programme
Last week Itel Mobile, a brand from the Hong Kong based Tranassion Holdings, brought its flagship phone, SelfiePro it1520 to India. it1520 comes with wide angle 13 megapixel front and back cameras, 2 GB of RAM 16 GB of storage, and a 5-inch 720p HD screen, runs the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system, and is bundled with a Reliance Jio 4G-VoLTE connection. This Rs 8490 phone also features an Iris scanner .
When the Chinese TV and smart phone maker re-entered the India market after a few years, it chose as its first offering, a handset—TCL 560 -- which offered a new way to unlock the device: Eye Verify. Pre-record a scan of iris—and then 'look' into the selfie camera every time you want to open the phone... a fool proof way to prevent others from doing so. The 560 combines a 5 megapixel from camera with an 84 degree field of view, with a HD IPS display. In other ways, this is a fairly standard dual SIM 5.5 inch phone running the latest Android 6.0 OS and costs Rs 7999.
It may be of only archival interest, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 7— the phone which has now been withdrawn due to some 'combustible' issues, also sported an iris scanner as its primary security technology.
While all these handsets have iris scanner technology, they cannot, in their present form be used as an authentication device for schemes like Aadhaar in India. This requires some special software as well as certification by the Universal Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Only one commercial portable device—the Samsung Galaxy Tab Iris has achieved this certification. But at Rs 13499 it is not an affordable device nor is it something lay customers will buy.
But at a price point below Rs 10,000 and if such phones come certified for self authentication, lakhs of Indian customers will have a strong motivation to buy a phone with an iris scanner so that they can avail of many Aadhaar-based like pensions, stipends, MNREGA payments from the comfort of their home.
Right now, the phone makers who launch such devices in India are working in silos, limiting the utility of iris scans to a password-alternative -- when the biggest application on earth is right here for the asking. After all, which nation can boast of over a billion strong base of digital ID holders?
Meanwhile, if other things are equal, buy a phone with an eye scanner—and hope that some day soon, a software update will make it Aadhaar compliant!