How the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s Iris Scanner Works

Windows 10 launched approximately 3 months ago, and it would only be fitting for Smartphones running Windows Phone 10, the former’s Mobile counterpart, to be released soon after. On the 6th of October, Microsoft unveiled a wide array of devices running on the mobile version of the Windows 10 OS to the world, and among these Smartphones were the Nokia Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL, with specifications such as 3 gigabytes of RAM, large batteries, large Quad HD screens and impressive primary and secondary cameras, are truly monsters among beasts. However, it is not the specifications of these two devices that set them apart from ALL of the Smartphones in the market right now – it is the fact that they are two of the very first Smartphones to come with iris scanning technology. Yes, both the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are capable of scanning the human iris and allow users to secure their phones with an iris scan.

Before the how of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s iris scanning technology can be explained, the medium that the technology uses needs to be described. Located on the front of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, along with a front-facing camera, is an infrared camera designed to allow the phones to capture better images of the human iris in low-light conditions and another camera designed specifically to take pictures of your eyes. This hardware, combined with technology known as “asymmetric key cryptography” that is most commonly used in smart cards, communicates and cooperates with a Windows feature known as Windows Hello which was initially available on the PC version of Windows 10 to allow users to gain access to their phones by having their irises scanned instead of entering a password or a PIN.

In order to set up an iris scan as your phone lock, you are first asked by the Windows Phone 10 OS to set up a PIN lock as a fallback plan that you can use whenever an iris scan fails for whatever reason. Next, you get your phone acquainted with your iris to actually set the screen lock up.

After the screen lock has been set up, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL initiate and iris scan whenever an attempt to unlock them is made. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL first use their infrared cameras to light up the user’s eyes, and the camera that has been embedded specifically for capturing pictures of users’ eyes then snaps a picture of the user’s eyes. A mathematical calculation then turns your biometric information into a hash, which is then checked by the device to see if it matches the hash it has stored from when you initially set the lock up. If the two hashes appear to be the same, you will be granted access to the phone, otherwise access will be denied. All in all, this entire process takes but 2 seconds to be executed and completed.

Part of the technology used to create the Lumia 950 and 950 XL’s iris scanner is inspired by Microsoft’s Kinect sensor which accompanies the infamous Xbox gaming console. Microsoft has made it privacy its top priority with Windows Hello and its new iris scanning technology, which is why Windows Hello does not store any captured pictures of your face or iris locally or anywhere on the internet. In addition, Microsoft’s iris scanning technology also boasts superiority over the “Face unlock” technology, which can be easily defeated using a picture of the user, that was introduced not too long ago. A person can absolutely not gain access to a Windows Phone through Microsoft Hello if they are using a picture of the user to try and get past the iris scan. In addition, to top it all off, Microsoft Hello and Microsoft’s new iris scanning technology can also go as far as to successfully scan your iris while you are wearing normal (transparent) glasses.

Lastly, Microsoft did not hype its new iris scanning technology to a significant degree, which could mean that Microsoft is, at this moment, only testing the waters for its latest breakthrough in Smartphone security. It is certainly possible that, if the populous grows fond of Microsoft’s iris scanning technology, we will be seeing this new iris scanning technology integrated into a lot more Smartphones pretty soon.


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.
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