Forget typing in a four-digit code, or drawing a specific shape as a passcode, and even using your fingerprint to unlock your smartphone. Amazon thinks that the next great way to secure your digital device is by scanning the shape of you ear. The company has just received a patent for technology that would scan your ear with a phone’s front-facing camera, unlocking it as you hold the device to the side of your face when answering a call.
There is research that show the shape of people’s ears can be just as unique as fingerprints, so the idea is not completely pointless. The technology would be able to identify if the ear the phone is being held to actually matches that of the owner.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to think of any real benefit to using ear scans as an unlocking mechanism. Both iOS and Android allow users to answer incoming calls without actually unlocking their device. So, if someone wanted to use an app on their phone that unlocks via ear scans, they would need to hold the phone up to their head, then lower it again to start using it. It’s less convenient than a fingerprint, and hardly better than a PIN code.
It certainly has potential for situations where only the device owner needs to be able to answer incoming calls, but that is very limiting. There is one other neat use for the technology, and that would be automatically switching to or from speakerphone, adjusting the earpiece volume depending on how close the phone is to the user’s face.
As will all patents, only time can tell when or if Amazon will use this patented technology. The patent was just recently granted, but the company first filed for it back in 2011, long before the first Fire Phone launched and subsequently tanked. Amazon has said will be another model of the Fire Phone at some point, so maybe ear scanning will be the flagship feature like head-tracking cameras were on the first one.