Review: Touch ID fingerprint sensor

By , Sep 20, 2013

Touch ID

Far and away, the most compelling upgrade worthy feature on the new iPhone 5s is the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It was a feature that was rumored for many months, and today the general public can finally see what all of the fuss is about.

I’ve been putting the Touch ID sensor, which rests inside of the iPhone 5s’ redesigned Home button, through its paces all morning. I’ve come away extremely impressed — not only with its ease of setup, but with its uncompromising accuracy.

After using it for a while, it’s readily apparent that this is not something that Apple hastily put into the iPhone 5s. This isn’t your father’s fingerprint sensor. Touch ID is a feature that Apple has meticulously meshed into the iPhone to make one transparent and cohesive experience. And it just works.

Setting it all up

To setup Touch ID, you’ll need to venture into the General > Passcode & Fingerprint section of the stock Settings app. There you’ll be requested to setup a passcode, which is a requirement to use Touch ID.

After your passcode is established, you can then venture into the Fingerprints panel and add up to five fingerprints to your device. These fingerprints can be from you, your spouse, friend, cat, dog, whatever. You can only up to five, so choose wisely.

Adding a fingerprint is extremely simple, if not a tad tedious. It requires you to continuously tap the Home button in order to pick up and record all of the nuances of your fingerprint. The actual fingerprints aren’t stored as images or anything on the device, instead a unique key of sorts is generated using an algorithm that can check against your fingerprint.

Touch ID Setup

Once you have one or more fingerprints setup and saved, you can choose to rename them, or delete them if you choose to do so. This can be done using the Edit button in the upper right-hand corner of the Fingerprints panel, or you can use a delete swipe gesture as well.

You’ll notice two toggles at the top of the Fingerprints panel — Passcode Unlock and iTunes & App Store. These settings allow you to enable or disable the fingerprint sensor for unlocking your device, and for making iTunes and App Store purchases independently of one another. For the App Store and iTunes, you’ll need to first verify your Apple ID before you can begin to use your prints to make purchases.

Using Touch ID

To use Touch ID to unlock your device, you’ll need to first wake the device using a press on the Home or Sleep buttons. Afterwards, simply rest a valid digit on the Home button, and watch iOS do its thing. In about a second or so, your device will unlock without so much as hinting at a Passcode. It’s really something wonderful to behold.

Of course, if you try to use a fingerprint that hasn’t been previous validated, or some random stranger comes and tries to unlock your device, they’ll be met with with a “try again” message that shakes back and forth, sort of like when you enter an incorrect Passcode.

It’s worth noting that at anytime you can still use your passcode. Apple requires that we use a passcode as a fail safe means of securing your phone.

For purchases

One of my favorite things about Touch ID is its ability to validate purchases on the App Store and iTunes. This makes it possible to make quick purchases without the need to enter in a long password.

App Store Scan FingerPrint

I don’t know how many times I’ve decided against making a purchase, simply because I was too lazy to enter in my gargantuan password. It’s a win/win for developers and for consumers.

Overall

Touch ID is very limited in its scope, but it works wonderful. It’s going to take a few hours of training to reprogram our minds to use our fingers instead of a passcode, but it’s a task that I’ll gladly participate in, because it makes for a much better experience, and a more secure device.

Kudos to Apple for purchasing AuthenTec and getting this right the first time. I know that there will be plenty of hardware developers who will no decide to delve back into the sketchy world of fingerprint authentication. Just remember who had the gumption to go back to the drawing board and try it, and who had the know how to get it right the first time out of the gate.

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  • Nasser Cedeño

    This Is AWESOME .Thanks Jeff For The Video :)

  • Kiyashi Shizoku

    As usual, a fast response from iDB on awesome product launches :D awesome.

    • ramu

      how to activate this touch ID in 4S mobile ????

  • Joonyaboy

    I never lock my phone, but I love it for the App store! Any chance this will be incorporated with keychain passwords on Safari? Never to have to enter a password on a tiny keyboard. I’m thinking the Macbooks will come with these in a few years

    • Alexander Reimann

      Good point about the Macbooks and safari. Although I think they won’t wait years for the Macbooks to get them, wouldn’t be surprised if the iPad 5 and the next Macbook Pro will already have it

      • Yujin

        Maybe just add one to the touch pad.

    • feldmania

      I have found that if you don’t enable locking of your phone (whether or not you enable your fingerprint to unlock it), it won’t let you use your fingerprint to make App Store purchases. In other words: You can’t use your fingerprint only for App Store purchases, you have to first enable phone locking. Has anyone found a way around this?

  • Jonathan

    Thank you Jeff for making this video :D

  • Flex

    I’m sorry but a fingerprint sensor is not an “upgrade worthy” feature. It’s cool no question about that, however, it’s not something that makes you want to upgrade. I mean really? “Sales rep: This phone has a fingerprint sensor. Customer: WOW I must have it.” Is not a scenario that happens.

    • Tonka Thor

      You’d be surprised.

    • lemonhead

      It really is for a lot of people out there including me. It’s a worthy upgrade from a iPhone 4S.

      And if you think about it, it’s even worthy for iPhone 5…
      I mean think of all the things u can incorpotate the fringerprintsensor, when ios 7 gets jailbroken. Its gonna be huge !

      • therealjjohnson

        Once you jailbreak your iOS 7 software can you be sure that your finger print information won’t be available and stored by 3rd parties? I “trust” Apple in this regard but not once the device is jailbroken. Just a thought…

      • Matt Taylor is Drunk

        Not even the OS has rights to read the Fingerprint sensor. it all stays directly on the chip, so no need to worry

    • diggitydang

      Couple that with the fact that the camera should be significantly improved, especially in lower light and I’m one of the ones looking to upgrade, even from my i5 (just not in gold – it still hasn’t grown on me!).

    • burlow

      the camera is a huge improvement over the 5, let alone the 4s. Camera + touch ID makes it worth it, imo.

      • ramu

        how to activate this touch id in 4S mobile ????

      • burlow

        sorry no one said anything about touch id in 4S mobile

  • leart za jmi

    I really need a 5s :)

    • Bob

      You don’t need one. You want one.

      • leart za jmi

        first step is wanting it :)

  • Alexander Reimann

    I wonder how long it’ll be before Samsung copies it in their next device release

    • Yujin

      They are already working on it. It will be called finger ID and look exactly like apple but work as shitty as any samsung.

      • Alexander Reimann

        LMAO

      • chumawumba

        S ID

      • Joseph

        I think people who use the S4 every day beg to differ. You can’t really make a comparison either, since Samsung has yet to copy any of the hardware *features* of an Apple device (the home button isn’t a feature…). They make their own unique software features.

      • mehrab

        I think they will have fingerprint sensors 64bit software which is true already and dual flashes TBH I DONT CARE WHO COPIES WHO as long as it benefits me IM A HAPPY PERSON but sadly we all know them features will be rushed and will not be as refined or polished as apples since they are SAMSUNG. Take this for an example apple copied htc ones idea of a bigger sensor but the htc one pictures are medocore and in low light pretty good (not the best, lumia kicks in there i guess). But apple NAILED it every one is going crazy about the camera the pictures from it look AMAZING! Sadly im out of the states and havent got my hands on with it yet, but everyone says its an amazing camera and the one to beat.

      • Joseph

        The HTC One doesn’t boast a good camera. Moot point.

      • mehrab

        They”ll probably follow apple now. Do the 5 element lens with the backside illumanaror dynamic tone maps etc

      • therealjjohnson

        You do know Samsung makes the a7 processor in the 5s right? They must not make everything “shitty”

    • leart za jmi

      Their fabulous team of copy is already in work.

      • Joseph

        I’ve stated this already, but let’s do it again. Is Apple the first company to have a fingerprint sensor in a phone? No, they aren’t.

        Besides, whether it’s copying or not, it’s a win-win for consumers, so I don’t see why you have to whine about it. Or are you whining because your device is no longer as ‘unique’? Technology progresses, companies use things from others. Deal with it.

      • Danuel Carr

        Apple isn’t the first company to do a fingerprint sensor, but they’re the first company to do it right. I have a finger print sensor on my laptop and use constantly, however it only actually works about 50% of the time. Creating a fingerprint sensor that works every time is something to be proud of.

      • muzzy996

        Right? Right for single users yes, but they aren’t necessarily doing families interested in limiting use of their devices any favors now are they? No, while separate privileges for purchasing through touchid itself could have allowed sharing the device with family members without fear of them making unauthorized purchases that would have eliminated accidental purchases by children which undoubtedly account for a portion of app store revenue. . . We can’t have that now can we? As implemented if a parent wants to enable touchid but limit the kids from buying things the parent must also disable purchasing using fingerprints system wide. Surely that “feature” will be added later and it will be heralded then but please let’s not put apple on a higher pedestal than they should be. Great addition to a great product surely but perfect its not, and sometimes its downright frustrating when new features are implemented half arsed like this for what seems to be purely to hold onto a future upgrade option.

    • Joseph

      I wonder how long it’ll take you to realize that Apple was by no mean the first company to put a fingerprint sensor in a phone. Stop trolling.

      • Alexander Reimann

        Um not talking about fingerprint reader. I’m specifically talking about the home button finger print reader. Also using this technology rather than the crappy fingerprint readers that are found in laptops etc. Those didn’t work half the time.

      • Joseph

        So general progress for everyone is a bad thing?

    • BullIsland

      Samsung already has facial recognition, as well as a swipe pattern. The swipe pattern is far superior to fingerprint access . . . just as fast, no concerns about release of biometric information.
      Samsung’s S4 is so far ahead of the 5S , . no comparision . . quad core processor, 2 GB Ram, NFC technology, wireless charging (that is BIG), 5 inch screen (Apple will get to this in two years) more pixels in each camera.
      No comparison.
      But, I don’t dispute Applebots love the flush of saying “I have an Iphone” and the cooing they get from others on the same tree. Probably worth the extra money paid, even if the phone is two generations behind.

  • Yujin

    I’ve been playing with it all morning and it woks very fast and the only issue is that iTunes keeps asking for a password, which I think is a bug that apple haut addresses in an OTA update.

  • Koyak

    Pinky? Lol!!

  • Tommy Gumbs

    I got my 5s and put a case on it. I rather enjoy the ease of just the simple swipe with IOS7.

    Maybe it will “blow my mind” when and if I decide to mess with it.

  • Rowan09

    Even though this is off topic since I don’t have my iPhone 5s until 7-10 days, I used Siri on my older 4S and it is much improved. The maps also looks a lot better too and the night mode is well appreciated.

    • Kurt

      totally forgot about siri…sounds so much better!

      • Rowan09

        It is. Besides having the ability to edit what you say, it can actually figure out what your saying even if it writes it out incorrectly. I used it and it was right everytime. I have a car with Bluetooth so I use Siri a lot.

  • Jomaa.✌

    I just upgraded from a 4s and I love it

  • Aaron de Silva

    I find it scary.. What if u click buy and like want to cancel but press the home button instead. Will it purchase the item accudentally??

    • Joseph

      There’s a difference between presses and taps.

      • ramu

        how to activate this option in 4S mobile ????

  • Niraj Mahajani

    iPhone 5s, fingerprint does not work for iTunes and App store purchases even when enabled. anything i am missing?

    • Niraj Mahajani

      I figured this one out. Restrictions must be turned off, to use this.

  • Sachka

    Is the home button totally capacitive? I mean does it have a click like the previous home button?

    • Joseph

      Yes.

  • Zach Krase

    Hey Jeff! And everyone else with the 5s! I know everyone by force of habit has been swiping to put in there pass code and then hits cancel to go back to the main lock screen, u can unlock your phone with your finger on the enter pass code screen as well!

  • megamoo

    For people like I that are required to have a passcode, and if it really works as smoothly as you show its a must have! hurry up apple and ship mine already!

  • BullIsland

    Sounds good, except Samsung has had swipable pattern (just as fast as fingerprint) and facial recognitiion (like fingerprint, takes a while to implement,but more sercure) for several years now.

    • Sachka

      You can hack facial recognition with a photo.

      • BullIsland

        No, mine requires blinking to work . . can’t do that with a photo . . .

      • ramu

        how to activate this option in 4S mobile ????

      • ramu

        i think it’s not available on 4S mobile……….