Google’s Nexus 6 offers just about every option you could want in the latest and greatest Android smartphone. It nearly had one more feature: A fingerprint sensor. Thanks to a little sleuthing by Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica, we now know early versions of the Nexus 6, along with Android 5.0 software, were ready to support it, but the feature was pulled near the end of the development cycle.
Amadeo found references to the fingerprint reader in the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project, repository. Multiple code commits to the repository mentioned the scanner — as well as the codename Shamu, a reference to the Nexus 6 — and its implementation methods such as enrolling fingers and hiding the fingerprint API until it was completed. In late August, however, there’s a project commit that simply pulls the function, explaining why we don’t see it on the Nexus 6 today.
The evidence also suggests that the fingerprint scanning tech wouldn’t be limited solely to the Nexus 6, but instead be available for any Android 5.0 phones, provided they had the supporting hardware, of course. In that case, the scanning could be used by apps for security, such as with Google Wallet, the Play Store or other titles that require secure logins.
Amadeo suggests that Google won’t likely abandon the work it has done here, and I’m inclined to agree. If the company wants to debut system-wide fingerprint scanning on Nexus devices, that probably won’t happen for another year or so — a long time to wait for a useful feature. That could happen, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Google works closely with a hardware partner before then to bring this to market.