Apple iPhone’s new fingerprint sensor draws complaints

Do you have an iPhone 5s? Are you having trouble getting its signature fingerprint sensor to work consistently?

It turns out, you’re not alone.

The Huffington Post reported Monday that numerous people are complaining about the new TouchID sensor on Apple’s latest flagship smartphone. A forum page on Apple’s own Web site entitled “TouchID being erratic” has received more than 26,000 views. Around two-fifths of the respondents to a poll on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, a Web news site that focuses on the company and its products, said that the sensor worked for them less than 95 percent of the time. Around a fifth said it worked less than three-fourths of the time. 

Media representatives are starting to pick up on the complaints. In addition to the Huffington Post article, Business Insider covered the complaints in an article last week. And a Wall Street Journal business editor tweeted out his own complaints about the fingerprint sensor, comparing it to Apple’s often buggy Siri feature and complaining that it only worked “a very frustrating 70% of the time.”

Of course, none of this is scientific. It’s hard to tell from the reports just what proportion of iPhone 5s owners are having problems with the sensor or how often they are having problems with it.

But I can vouch for the complaints. While I still stand by my overall positive review of the iPhone 5s, I’m grown less and less impressed by TouchID the more I’ve used the device.

The TouchID sensor on my iPhone is thrown off so easily that it works only about a third of the time for me. If I don’t hold my thumb in exactly the right position, the sensor won’t recognize my print. For example, if my thumb is rotated just a little bit left or right, or if I don’t have the bump in the middle of my thumb print right in the middle of the sensor, TouchID won’t recognize it. And if my fingers are wet because I’ve been running or I just washed my hands, the sensor won’t work at all.

I’ve also found that its accuracy varies by finger. It’s much more likely to recognize my right thumb than my left one, for example. I frequently, when trying to use my left thumb to log in, just give up and tap in my passcode.

The frustrations that I — and seemingly others — have encountered run counter to Apple’s promises about TouchID. At the event in which Apple unveiled the iPhone 5s and in a promotional video shown then, company officials assured users that the sensor would be able to read prints in any orientation and that “every time you use it, it gets better at reading your print.”

Apple does warn that fingers need to be clean and dry for the sensor to work. Its primary suggestion for users having problems is to re-configure TouchID and have it re-scan their fingerprints.

But that solution doesn’t seem to be working for all users. 

The TouchID is one of the most apparent differences between the iPhone 5s and its predecessor, the iPhone 5. I previously reported a separate problem with the sensor, that its use could open up a security vulnerability, because it can be configured to allow anyone whose fingerprints are recognized by a particular device to make purchases in Apple’s iTunes store.

Photo and video courtesy of Apple.


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  • freddysrevng2

    Troy…. everyone knows “Apple never has problems with its iPhones”…. don’t you remember when there was no “Antennagate” until Steve started giving away free iCondoms to cover the phone to prevent “Premature iDropcallation”???
    “No more free Apple Products for You”!!!!

  • david

    Talk about a biased spin, sounds like it does not work at all, however, when you really read the words it “worked” for them less that 95% of the time…..which means it did NOT work about 5% of the time. Really, 5% of the time you have to do it more than once. I bet on first read most people through the process was a disaster, when that is not the case at all. It is all in the way you write it to put your spin.

  • Jason Harper

    So, my Google Chrome crashes so much, I switched back to using MS Explorer. My Kindle Fire takes forever to load even with acceleration or doesn’t at all. Though it has its own version of Adobe Flash, I constantly get messages telling me it can’t play certain videos because it doesn’t have the proper software. My LG phone is supposed to be 4GLTE, but I have never seen that was the case. Last night I was trying to get Yahoo weather on it and couldn’t get it was taking forever to load. My friend who has an iPhone 4S got it in seconds.

  • TedSimmer

    I got an iPhone 5S last week and so far the TouchID is GREAT…!! Occasionally, I will have to touch the sensor once or twice after a misread, but in comparison to my Droid Razr Maxx where I would swip a pattern to open the phone, the amount of misreads are dramatically lower. There is absolutely no comparison. This TouchID feature is priceless.
    FYI – I’m a first time iPhone user. I was an Android guy and now I’m not….!

  • Otto Mann

    Only 440 actual posters out of the 26000 views. 3/4 in the 75% to 100% range. So… Sorry to those who suffer.

    BTW, is there a Samsung media like there is an Apple media? I know there’s nothing I like better every day than reading the latest Apple fail click bait. I could double (or triple or quadruple) my pleasure if Samsung got the same treatment.

  • neal157

    I programmed three different profiles using different positions of the same thumb. Since then I am at 100%.

  • wadawin

    Mine worked intermittently until I found that covering the button with my full thumb was failure proof… touch ID Works perfectly now.

  • No Name

    Another Samsung/Google ad by Troy. I like to see if either of these two companies can do a better job.

  • Michael Randall

    Mine works 100% of the time unless as noted my finger is wet or dirty. People may not be understanding that entirely when taking these polls.

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  • sidgar

    Considering how Apple recently admitted to opening its iTunes account information to the NSA, this is an easy way for them to build a nation-wide fingerprint database from unsuspecting users.

    • len

      This is not true. The fingerprint data never leaves the phone.

  • joe phil

    my iphone 5s touch ID works perfectly fine. great……..

  • dave

    my touch ID works great too. When you configure the print, move your finger around from side to side and up and down, so the sensor gets more of your print. I did this for both thumbs and I never have a problem at all. I also really like that pressing the home button to turn on the phone from sleep and leaving my thumb there for a second opens the phone, without that pesky swipe haha. Overall I am very happy with my 5s and the way the print sensor works.

  • whatsa2

    this is the standard problems with this type of tech
    (not saying apples is bad)
    most of them you could figure out how to place your fingers or clean them lol
    to get to work, but there as just lots of people who just dont get it
    -hence why a lot of companies didnt pursue this.
    – as I used to say to PC users when this first came out

    you dont have to use it!


    I hear iToilet is having issues too..

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