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Samsung Facial Recognition: An Exploding Opportunity?

Samsung, the company known for exploding stuff, is adding facial recognition to its flagship smartphone.

Bloomberg reported this week that sources have verified that the Galaxy S8 will use the biometric strategy to authenticate mobile payments, including through Samsung Pay. In addition to the facial recognition, it will also integrate fingerprint authentication and iris detection, and it’s working with banks to make it commercially a go, the sources said. Samsung itself declined comment to the outlet.

Which still leaves the question: Will it explode?

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was famously, err, pyrotechnically challenged—prompting a global recall last October. The device’s batteries—which came from two different manufacturers—kept overheating and catching fire. Airlines banned them from even being placed in airplane mode—“Galaxy Note 7s must be switched entirely off for the duration of the flight,” the attendants nervously intoned. And while the airplane scenario is bad enough, really, who knew where you’d be when one of them spontaneously combusted? In the subway, in the beer aisle of the grocery store—the potential carnage was too much to consider.

It was a bad run for the Korean CE giant. But then came the washing machine problem. Late last year the company had to recall nearly three million top-loading washing machines after reports that they too were—you guessed it—exploding.

I think John Oliver summed up the brand’s issue nicely in a parody commercial on the latest Last Week Tonight.

Worse, on the washing machine front, Samsung decided to partner with TV provider DISH Network in the US to carry out the in-home repairs that apparently make getting the whites white safe again. Consumers reported that the satellite guys didn’t seem to know how to fix washing machines (imagine that) and also, in many instances, they tried to get them to buy satellite TV services. Truly ninth-circle stuff.

So, the question remains: If I have to hold my phone up to my face (let alone my freaking eye!) to be scanned in order to buy a pack of gum, what guarantee do I have that I won’t end up with third degree burns and lacerations that make your typical Bond villain look baby-faced? Ordinarily, with, say, an iPhone, I wouldn’t necessarily feel trepidation. But this is Samsung. And until proven otherwise, on the risk-reward scale, getting cozy with the Galaxy 8 for the purpose of biometric authentication doesn’t seem to be a very good roll of the dice. 

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