Users of the new iPhone 5s and HTC One Max can enjoy the added security features of a built-in fingerprint sensor, but that does not mean that those who use Android and older iOS devices are left out of the loop.
World Wide Touch Technology, a Hong Kong company, has developed separate dongles with a fingerprint sensor for Android devices as well as iOS devices using the older, non-Lightning connectors.
The process is simple enough. Plug the dongle into the phone's micro-USB port (for Android) or connector slot (for Apple) and download the app.
Once you register your fingerprint, you can set which apps to "lock" with your fingerprint. To access these apps, you will need to scan the registered finger. If the dongle is removed, or if a different finger is used, the app cannot be opened.
The set-up is fairly simple, but some steps are not automatic. While my Android phone recognised the dongle, it did not prompt me to download the app, which I had to do manually.
The manual's instructions are outdated. You have to go to www.fingerq.com/download and click on the Google Play link, which will lead to the Q-Manager app. Once it is installed, you enter a four-digit passcode, then scan a finger multiple times for it to be recorded into the system.
This is a lot more difficult than on the iPhone 5s. The sensor bar is the traditional thin strip that requires you to swipe your finger across. Do this too fast or too slowly and nothing registers.
Next, you select the apps you want protected and turn on the security feature. The phone will operate normally but each time you want to activate a secured app, you will be asked to, um, give it the finger.
The good news is that the software allows you to protect individual apps. You can lock Google Play Store or the Gallery when you let your child play with the phone. You can also lock Gmail and WhatsApp away from prying eyes.
The sensors of the iPhone 5s and HTC One Max cannot do this.
The bad news is that the sensor works maybe two times out of three. So expect to make multiple stabs at it just to read your e-mail messages.
You can also use the four-digit passcode. But you cannot simply download the app and use the passcode feature, as the app runs only when it recognises the dongle.
The company has also made cases with a built-in sensor for three Samsung phones, but they have their pros and cons.
The dongles are not meant to be left connected. You will be constantly reminded to turn off the sensor to conserve battery life.
But there is no power switch on the dongle. The switch is only on the case.
Imagine this: You get an e-mail notification. You plug in the dongle, wait for it to be recognised and pray that your first swipe will work. Leave the dongle on and you have to deal with the battery notification each time you wake up the device.
On the other hand, the cases are designed such that the fingerprint scanner works better with a finger from your left hand. You still have to remember to turn on the case each time you use it.
There is no doubt that the authentication and security features work, but there are significant shortcomings in practice.
Price: $119 (case), $79 (dongle)
Weight: 15g (dongle)
Value for money: 3
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.