Google will be adding native fingerprint authentication to the next version of Android, Android M, according to Buzzfeed. Without citing sources, the publication said the feature would allow users to login to their many Google services with a fingerprint. The company will reportedly announce the feature during next week's Google I/O developer conference.
Android OEMs have bolted various forms of fingerprint ID on top of Android, but so far those features have fallen flat, and that's being charitable. A system-level fingerprint authentication system could potentially allow Android to more closely match Apple's highly successful Touch ID found in iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad mini 3, and iPad Air 2.
The Android ecosystem faces a challenge when competing with Apple on this front, however, and that's the reality that Google doesn't control the hardware. By introducing a system level fingerprint authentication scheme, Google will be leaving hardware implementation to its OEMs.
Apple, on the other hand, is able to store one's fingerprints locally by only including Touch ID on devices with an Apple-designed "Secure Enclave." There's a wealth of things we don't know about what Google will announce, but it's hard to imagine it will be as useful or secure as Touch ID.
Still, this is Google we're discussing. If the company found a way to implement fingerprint authentication, it will probably work and it will probably be secure, whether it's storing your fingerprints on rigidly controlled hardware or on Google's servers.
My guess is that it will be the later, and the devil will be in the details. There was a big of pushback against Touch ID from some quarters as Apple's critics were slow to grasp how Apple was storing fingerprints. Google might not face that same pressure. Its customers already have the rest of their lives stored on Google servers, so it seems likely few will mind adding their fingerprints to that treasure trove.
However it shapes up, such a move should be good for Android. Apple and Google pushing each other to advance mobile technology farther and faster is good for we, the consumer.