Six Ways to Use Touch ID on iPhones and iPads

Updated April 13th, 2020.

If you have an iPhone 5s, a 6, or a 6 Plus, or a 7, or a 7 Plus, or an 8, or an 8 Plus (or an iPad mini 3, or an iPad Air 2, or an iPad Pro), your device’s Home button has a little metal ring around it. That means it has Touch ID, Apple’s technology for identifying you by your fingerprint. Touch ID lets you substitute touching the button with your finger in place of typing in passwords. This saves tons of time, and reduces annoyance.

You get a chance to enable Touch ID when you first set up a new iPhone (or iPad), but a lot of people skip that step, and then, in a classic case of not knowing what they’re missing, forget about it.

This article aims to show “those people” what they’re missing. They’re missing a lot.

Since this is the Valentine’s Day season, I offer a “love haiku” to Touch ID:

O pretty button
Unlock iPhone with a touch
Make me feel so cool

(First things first: if you haven’t set up Touch ID, go to the Settings app, then scroll down to Touch ID & Passcode. If you don’t have a passcode for your iPhone you’ll have to create one now. Follow the directions on the screen and “enroll” at least one finger. You might want to do a couple. You can do up to four.)

Here are six things you can do with Touch ID.

1. Unlock your iPhone.

Obvious? Maybe. But not if you haven’t set it up. Go to Settings/Touch ID & Passcode. Enter the unlock passcode if you have one (if you don’t have one, you will in a minute). Turn on the switch next to “iPhone Unlock.” From now on, when the iPhone is locked (dark) you can wake it up by clicking the Home button and simply keeping your finger on the button. Don’t click and hold down. Rather, click and let go– but maintain contact with the button when you do.

Touch ID & Passcode settings

2. Buy stuff from the iTunes and App Stores

Imagine this: you go to the App Store to buy an app, and instead of typing in your Apple ID password you simply place your finger on the Home button. You’ll have to enter the password one time while setting this up, but not again (until you turn the iPhone completely off and then on again). What a time-saver.

Touch ID for App Store

3. Buy stuff with Apple Pay

Not shown here, because my lowly iPhone 5s doesn’t do Apple Pay, but on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, and also on the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2, right under “iPhone Unlock” and “iTunes & App Store” you’ll also see Apple Pay. Turn that on for sure.

Note: if you have an Apple Watch, you can use Apple Pay even without having an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus (or iPad mini 3 or iPad Air 2) because the Apple Watch can do it all by itself. No need to tether it to an iPhone for this. At least that’s the claim, and since this post was written before the Apple Watch came out, we have only Apple’s word on this.

4. Unlock your 1Password vault

You’re using 1Password* to store all of your logins for websites, and other sensitive info, aren’t you? Synching them like magic across your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, right? Of course right– because YOU read my blog post about passwords, and how a password manager like 1Password makes life a lot easier.

Touch ID for 1Password

Anyhow, if you know where to look, 1Password has a setting that allows you to unlock the password vault using Touch ID. It’s in the 1Password app’s settings, so launch 1Password, look for the gear at the bottom, tap it, and turn on Touch ID.

Touch ID 1Password

5. Log into your E*TRADE account

This one’s a little tricky, but worth it, if you have an E*TRADE account. Launch the app, sign in manually, then tap the menu button at top left (looks like three horizontal bars).

Touch ID E*TRADE bars

Then tap the gear that appears in roughly the same position (top left again, not the one at the bottom right), and you’ll see “Use Touch ID To Log In.” Like this:


Turn that on and you’re all set. Next time you launch the app, tap where you’d ordinarily enter your account number and password, and you’ll get the screen below.

Touch ID E*TRADE sign-in

You know what to to after that– just touch the Home button with your registered finger. Remember though that the app waits for you to tap in the user name/password area before putting up the Touch ID window.

6. Unlock your Evernote account

Evernote’s a great place to store information, like car repair records, utility bills, medical records– really, any document you want access to from your iPhone or iPad. It’s really handy to be able to pull out your iPhone and see a copy of the bill from the last time you had a brake job when your mechanic’s telling you it’s time to do it again, or information from your mom’s AT&T bill when you’re calling AT&T to find out why they charge so much for crummy internet service.

Handy as it is, you don’t want other people getting into your stuff, so you have to keep the account locked. That’s just being smart. Luckily, the annoyance of having to enter a password is a thing of the past, as you can use Touch ID to unlock the collection. It’s a little hard to find the setting, so here’s your guide to that.

First, be sure you’re signed into your Evernote account already. Next, touch the gear at the top left. Then, touch “Premium” (this whole thing only works for Premium accounts). Next, turn ON the Passcode lock, and then– finally— you’ll see the option to unlock with Touch ID. It’s a long way to go but it’s worth it.

Here’s how it looks in the end.

Touch ID Evernote

Evernote pops up the Touch ID window right away, as soon as the app is launched, unlike E*TRADE with its first-you-tap experience.

And there you have it: six ways to use Touch ID on iPhones and iPads. As promised. But, as usual, I like to give you more than you paid for. So here are a couple of bonus Touch ID tips.

  1. If you turn the iPhone or iPad completely off, you’ll have to enter your passcode to unlock the phone the first time.
  2. Touch ID can accept up to four different fingers and they don’t have to belong to the same person. The Family iPad might be unlocked by Mom’s finger and Dad’s thumb.
  3. You can use a toe.

OK, that’s it. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Copyright 2008-2024 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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