Clearly as we rely more on our devices, their security is more important than ever. But in the case of Apple’s iOS Touch ID hardware, I cannot understand for the life of me why Apple’s made security more paranoid than I will ever be. Every single time you switch off your phone, you’re required to log in with Touch ID again – even if it’s just seconds later.

If you’re using Touch ID on iOS, this may be the most annoying screen you see repetitively throughout the day:

The Most Annoying iPhone Touch ID Screen

The Most Annoying iOS Screen

The problem is that Apple has turned off the option to delay screen lock when Touch ID is turned on. Below, on the left are the passcode lock options you see when using a numeric passcode. On the right, there are no options when Touch ID is turned on.

Touch ID Require Passcode Screen

Touch ID Require Passcode Screen

It’s possible, even likely, that I don’t understand the intricacies of Apple’s device security requirements or the scenario that changing this might open up to having my privacy violated. However, I can’t think of one. This seems to me an example of a product designer wanting to showcase a cool hardware feature by requiring that you use it all the time.

Touch ID is fast but it’s not instantaneous. If I close my phone or put my phone in my pocket 100 times a day, that’s 100 times I’m faced with the annoying Touch ID delay – even if I’d just had my phone open a moment ago, seconds ago or minutes ago. Apple, my life is just not that scary; I’m just not that paranoid.

The alternative I guess is to train myself to leave my phone on when I put it down or put it in my pocket. That’s just odd.

It’s a testament that Apple’s designed a device so essential to my everyday activities that I turn to it hundreds of times a day. But, please give me back the choice of having security timeouts with Touch ID or explain why you’ve taken this away.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

One Comment

  1. If I were to take a guess, I would consider the delay for “Require Passcode” to be a security feature. That is, you’d enable it so people looking over your shoulder cannot see you repeatedly enter your passcode in a way that allows them to learn it.

    TouchID’s main security feature is that it allows you to unlock the phone in a way that does not allow nosey onlookers to see your passcode but also does not seriously compromise the chosen security of iOS.

    If I take both of these into account and look at the delay before unlocking as a way to hide passcode entry, I can understand why the option disappears if TouchID is enabled. In order to get the current behaviour changed, that point of view needs to change for whoever designed that feature.

    (I agree with you, the timeout option should always be available. I’m just trying to explain why it could be designed the way it is)


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