One of the most compelling and interesting features of the new iPhone 5s is TouchID, the fingerprint identification system that can be used to unlock your phone.
I don’t believe there is any better indication of the difference between Android and iOS than this particular feature mainly because TouchID uses a “secure vault” within the phone’s A7 chip. This “close to the metal” level of hardware integration provides a very clear point of delineation between how Apple and Android manage their operating systems.
Simply put, this feature could not be implemented on an Android phone.
Because of the huge array of carrier and manufacturer proprietary hardware and the myriad OS flavors (and carrier “skins”) adding to the fragmentation issues that Android is now famous for, there is little-to-no chance for the consistency necessary among manufacturers to do this type of fingerprint security implementation.
I don’t feel like the tech press has really driven that point home adequately (nor will it). They’re talking about TouchID as an interesting feature but critical to the whole thing is the fact that it can only be done on the Apple platform. Once TouchID becomes more prevalent, developers will start taking advantage of it.1 Couple this with a future where personal security is under attack by criminals (and our own government) and TouchID is going to become a differentiating feature for Apple and Android phones will be in no position to catch up any time soon. Or ever.
It seems that I’ve been proven wrong already. An Apple press release, released today, notes that developers won’t have access to the fingerprint data. While that’s not totally specific about whether or not the apps can use the TouchID system to authenticate apps, it does sound like they are walling it off to just Apple apps for now. For more details, here’s the article from ZDNet ↩