7 essential Touch ID tips for iPads and iPhones

Get Touch ID working more effectively with these tips

Apple, iOS, TouchID, Touch ID, iPhone, iPad, password
Credit: Apple

Apple’s biometric Touch ID system is pretty useful. It lets you use your fingerprint to pay for groceries using Apple Pay; purchase apps from the App Store; to acquire great content from iTunes; to unlock some third-party apps and as an alternative to logging into your device. And there are a few lesser known tricks to make using Touch ID even better, so read on:

Naming rights

I’m assuming most Touch ID users know they can register multiple fingerprints with the system? When you do the system’s default naming convention is 'Fingerprint 1', 'Fingerprint 2' and so on. You might want to name them so you can identify which print belongs to which record, which may be useful if you choose to delete one to make way for one of the subsequent tips. Here’s how to name your prints:

  • Open Settings>Touch ID & Passcode
  • You’ll be asked to manually enter your passcode
  • Tap a saved fingerprint to rename it, or swipe it and then tap the delete button to get rid of it.

Which finger is it?

If you’ve already saved fingerprints in Touch ID you may be unable to recall which digit is included in which record – is your thumbprint ‘Fingerprint 1’, 'Fingerprint 2' or 'Fingerprint 3'? Don’t worry, there’s an easy way to figure this out. Open Settings>Touch ID & Passcode, and enter your passcode. Now with the Fingerpints 1 etc listing visible gently tap your Home button, the record for the particular finger you are using will flash gently if you have trained Touch ID to recognize that digit. Now you can name your print appropriately.

Training time

There’s one more thing about the finger identification procedure noted in the tip directly above this one – each time you make the fingerprint record flash Touch ID records a little more information about your print. Do this a few times (perhaps a dozen) and you should find Touch ID operates faster and more accurately than it did before.

Double up

Another way to help improve Touch ID accuracy is to file the print twice. For example, if you regularly use your right thumb with Touch ID, it makes sense to create a second record of the same print. In Settings>Touch ID & Passcode choose Add Fingerprint… and create a second record of the same digit. This and a little more training should help optimize Touch ID print identification.

#addedtip: When you add your fingerprint to Touch ID there’s a tendency to put your finger straight up with your nail pointing North, but how often do you hold your iDevice that way? It makes sense to create a second print with your finger at a more natural angle, usually between 45-90-degrees.

Wet print

Not that I’m recommending using your iPhone or iPad in the bath, but if you do occasionally try to use Touch ID when your finger is sweaty or damp (perhaps at work, after a workout, or when following a recipe in the kitchen) then you know your print is likely to be rejected.

If you are using a 2015 or later iPhone equipped with the latest version of the Touch ID device you may get good results by enrolling a new record with a damp finger (Settings>Touch ID & Passcode choose Add Fingerprint…) This doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s pretty useful.

Multiple choice

Apple limits you to using just five fingerprint records. However, if you alternate though all your fingers when tapping the Home button to create a new Fingerprint record you can end up creating one record that identifies all ten fingers – though I don’t know if this impacts device security.

Cold hands?

If your Touch ID sensor seems less accurate when you are experiencing cold weather it could be your hands are at fault as the temperatures affect your skin, so create a Fingerprint record of one of your fingers when it is cold and things should be better.

I hope these tips help you get more from Touch ID.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld. Don’t forget to visit my Apple TV website.

To express your thoughts on Computerworld content, visit Computerworld's Facebook page, LinkedIn page and Twitter stream.
Windows 10 annoyances and solutions
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.