For many years now phones have come with the humble Fingerprint reader as the preferred method for securely access your phone. Recently however, there have been developments with newer technologies like FaceID, Iris scanning and in-screen fingerprint readers becoming more common. Today we will try to explain the differences between each of these.


First introduced by Apple in 2017 with the iPhone X, FaceID replaced the previous Fingerprint reader based TouchID. Using what Apple calls a 'True Depth' camera system, the iPhone uses a small infrared light to projector over 30,000 points of light invisibly onto your face. These are mapped by the front-facing camera, and then stored securely on the phone. In practice its pretty magical, a quick glance at your iPhone is enough to unlock it, and it won't be easily fooled by photos or twins. Due to the use of the infrared light, it also works in the dark, meaning you won't annoy your partner if you decide to check your messages at night. OPPO's recently released Find X and R17 also feature a variant of FaceID. Using a technology called 'structured light' they use up to 10x as many points of data to map your face, ensuring a more secure and difficult to fool system. Featured on the Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, XR and the OPPO R17 and Find X.

Face Unlock

At first glance, Face Unlock seems similar to FaceID; look at front camera, unlock phone. Unlike its higher tech cousin however, this technology solely relies on the front facing camera of your phone and can be fooled by photographs, or even similar looking people.

Iris Scanning

Iris scanning is a newer technology developed by Samsung for their Galaxy series phones. First introduced in 2017 with the Samsung Galaxy S8 series, iris scanning uses a small infrared LED combined with a special image filter for the front facing camera to capture the pattern reflected off your iris. This is used in combination with face unlock to verify your identity and unlock your phone. There are a few downsides however, glasses may block the infrared LED, and if you have small eyes (like this humble blogger), you may have to adopt a shocked expression, in order for the system to see your iris at all. Featured on the Note 9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 series.

In screen Fingerprint reader

An evolution of the traditional fingerprint reader in screen fingerprint readers use a small camera underneath the screen to read your fingerprint. This allows manufacturers to eliminate even more bezels from the phone, as well as reducing the notch used by devices like the iPhone. While not as fast as traditional fingerprint scanners, it is still signifcantly faster then face based technologies like FaceID and Iris scanning. Currently only availabe on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OPPO R17 Pro.