iPhone X Face ID

Samsung's first-mover strategy comes at the expense of user's security

Apple just launched their highly anticipated iPhone X, including a new biometric security system called Face ID, allowing you to unlock the device with just your face. Competitors have had similar features for years, but Apple is about to have a bigger impact than other companies. Why?

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 devices feature what the company calls ‘iris scanning’, in addition to facial recognition and a fingerprint scanner. Neither of those mechanisms are very secure though. While hacking the iris scanning-feature took more effort than fooling the facial recognition, which was done with a printed-out photograph, it still is a blowback for the Korean giant, which claims on their website that ‚no two irises are alike,‘ making them supposedly perfect for securing sensitive data on a smartphone.

With both technicques having been broken so soon after launch, it seems Samsung wanted to rush them to the market instead of taking the time for perfecting them, creating truly viable alternatives to passwords (which, let’s face it, nobody ever liked). However, this is also not the first time they have employed this ‚first mover’ strategy, trying to gain competitive advantage by introducing new technology first.

Creating lasting impact

While the aggressive pursuit of new features, fueled by shareholder’s desire for higher returns, won’t go away anytime soon, one question should be asked by the media, users, and companies alike: Is it worth it? Is the strategy of rushing out features, marketed to enhance security and privacy but actually creating new vulnerabilities, worth the risk of betraying users’ trust?

There might be a better way - the one Apple is pursuing. Think back to the last few generations of iPhones. Apple hasn’t been the first to bring technologies like fingerprint scanners, high-resolution and bigger displays, optical image stabilization, etc. to market. With some of these features Apple profited from the high retention rate and brand loyalty of their customers, which were patient and accepted not getting the latest features first.

But through other technologies Apple has managed to have a lasting impact and create entirely new behavior - simply by delivering well-thought out solutions (like Touch ID), that actually worked as promised.

Yes, the iPhone X won‘t be out before November and there is no doubt hackers and security experts will try and find a flaw in Face ID. Furthermore, the societal consequences will be hotly debated in the coming months and years. But from early reports it looks as if Apple went out of its way to make that a near impossible task through both new hardware and deeper integration with their proprietary operating system, and also offering a simple way of quickly disabling the feature.

The second-mover advantage

So, is there anything inherently wrong about being a ‚first mover‘? Not at all. In fact, it has often worked to Samsung‘s advantage in the past and it has put pressure on Apple to follow (for example by adopting bigger screens). But just looking at the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone X, even Android fans are admitting that there is a clear winner.

By waiting for technology to be ready, and by integrating into a complete package, Apple is once again about to have a huge and lasting impact on the industry and society as a whole, proving once again their second-mover advantage.

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