Apple's fingerprint scanner for the iPhone: awesome innovation or just a gimmick?

The new iPhone 5s comes with a magical Touch ID. Will it be any good?

The passwords system is broken, we can probably all agree. Trading convenience for security, many of us choose weak passwords or passcodes. In its announcement of the new iPhones today, Apple introduced a new-yet-old security alternative: fingerprint scanning. This is definitely one of those big hit-or-miss additions to the new phone.

A fingerprint scanner promises convenience and enhanced security, since your fingerprints are unique and they're really hard to lose. However, not everyone who has access to fingerprint scanners on their devices--they're commonly found on business laptops and business-friendly devices like the Motorola Atrix--uses them. That's because either people don't bother to set it up or forget it's there--or the technology, so far, has sucked.

Having used fingerprint scanners on a few laptops in the past, I'm inclined to believe the latter. However, Apple's Touch ID version looks like it might be better than the older versions. Many fingerprint scanning solutions require finger swipes. Swipe too short or too long or at the wrong angle and you've got to retry. On the iPhone 5s, you hold your finger on the home button for a couple of seconds until the device registers you, so at least there's less room for error. Here's Apple's video of how the fingerprint scanner works.

I'm holding judgment until the reviews come in, but do long for the day we have a more secure, easier way of signing into things than typing in strings of characters. That said, there's a lot that can go wrong with passcode alternatives (remember Android's face unlock vulnerability?). What do you think? Do you use any of the alternative login methods?

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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