Apple's iPhone 5s can be unlocked using just your fingerprint. Here's how to set up the fingerprint scanner on an iPhone 5s and how to use Touch ID.

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The iPhone 5s comes armed with a high-profile fingerprint scanner beneath the Home Button. Called Touch ID, the new system aims to replace your passcodes and App Store password with a fingerprint scan.

As you touch the Home Button the Touch ID sensor reads your fingerprint and unlocks your iPhone. No more sliding to unlock, and no more entering four digit passcodes. Touch ID aims to make the iPhone more secure and easier to use at the same time.

See: iPhone 5s review & Apple sells more than 9m iPhone 5s, 5c during launch weekend

How to use Touch ID on iPhone 5s

What is Touch ID and how does Touch ID work?

The Touch ID technology found in the iPhone 5s combines an integrated image scanner with the Home Button. Although it’s not quite a camera, it does scan an image of your finger or thumb.

“The technology within Touch ID is some of the most advanced hardware and software we've put in any device.” says Apple, “To fit within the Home button, the Touch ID sensor is only 170 microns thin, not much thicker than a human hair. This high-resolution 500 ppi sensor can read extremely fine details of your fingerprint. The button itself is made from sapphire crystal - one of the clearest, hardest materials available. This protects the sensor and acts as a lens to precisely focus it on your finger.”

The result of all this technology is a Home Button that is capable of reading your finger in any orientation, and uses that degree of image recognition to unlock your phone.

Also: Inside the iPhone 5s Touch ID scanner, how does it work?

How to set up Touch ID fingerprint scanner on iPhone 5s

Touch ID is automatically configured during the iOS Setup Assistant process, but you will still need to enter a four-digit passcode. ouch ID will reduce the number of times you are required to input this passcode, but it will be requested for additional security validation when enrolling new fingerprints and it’s useful if a friend needs to unlock the phone for you.

The passcode is also useful because it ensures you will be able to unlock the phone in the event that your fingerprint is not recognised. Make sure you pick a passcode you can remember, but nothing that’ll be easily guessed, such as ‘1234’.

Touch ID settings

If you didn’t configure Touch ID during the setup process you can do it later by following these steps:

  • Tap Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode > Touch ID.

  • Tap Add A Fingerprint

  • Press one finger to the Home Button and hold it there until the phone vibrates.

  • Continue to tap the Home button, slightly changing the angle of your finger each time

Each time you tap the finger to the Home Button the fingerprint will get a little more detailed. Do not press the Home Button, you only need to gently push your finger against it.

How to set up Touch ID

How to add more fingers to iPhone 5s fingerprint scanner

You can add up to five different digits to Touch ID, wish to allow another family member to unlock your iPhone. To add more fingers tap Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode > enter your password > Touch ID > Add a fingerprint > Add Finger.

If you would like a family member to be able to unlock your iPhone you can use this process, too, to register one of their digits.

iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 cameras put to the test

How to use Touch ID to unlock the iPhone 5s

You use Touch ID to unlock your iPhone every time you wake it up from sleep. There are two ways to use it:

  • Press the Home button to wake up the phone, then place your finger on the Home button to unlock it

  • Press the Sleep/Wake button to wake up the phone, then hold your finger on the Home button to unlock it

After two attempts you’ll also be given the option of entering your passcode. If you continue to use Touch ID for two more attempts you will be required to enter your passcode to unlock the phone.

How to use Touch ID to make App Store purchases

Touch ID can also be used to make App Store purchases. To do this you need to ensure that Touch ID is setup to work with the App Store.

  • Tap Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode > Fingerprints.

  • Tap iTunes & App Store to set it on (green).

When you next make a purchase you’ll see a Scan Fingerprint option. You can now make purchases on the App Store with just a touch of your finger.

Touch ID make purchases

See: App Store secrets & How to change App Store to UK

What can't you use Touch ID for?

You can’t use Touch ID to view your online paswords, found in Settings > Safari > Passwords & Autofill > Saved passwords. When you tap through to see the password you’ll first have to enter your passcode. 

There are some other instances when you’ll have to use the passcode, too:

  • When you’ve restarted your iPhone 5s

  • After more than 48 hours from the last unlock

  • To access the Passcode & Fingerprint settings

How to fix fingerprint scanner problems

Apple suggests the following fixes if you have problem accessing Touch ID:

  • Add and use a different finger.

  • Persevere. As you use Touch ID, it will learns and improves recognition of your fingerprint.

  • Use the passcode. You can use your passcode simply by sliding to unlock as on a previous model of iPhone.

How secure is Touch ID? Is the iPhone 5s fingerprint scanner safe?

Touch ID is a lot more secure than a passcode. According to Apple, “Every fingerprint is unique, so it is rare that even a small section of two separate fingerprints are sufficiently alike to register as a match for Touch ID. The probability of this happening is one in 50,000. This is much better than the one in 10,000 odds of guessing a typical four-digit passcode.”

Apple does not store images of your fingerprint. Touch ID stores a mathematical representation of your finger, from which it isn’t possible to reproduce an image.

Improve security with a regular password

If you are concerned about security it’s possible to replace the four digit passcode with something more complex. You can use a regular password instead of the four digit passcode.

  • Go to Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode

  • Set Simple Passcode off (not green).

Now you’ll be asked to enter a password instead of a four digit passcode.

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