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Apple Inc. Botched a Major iPhone 5S Feature, Users Report


Apple billed it as a quick and reliable security method, but Touch ID has now stymied the iPhone 5S users it was supposed to protect.

Consumers and analysts had a feeling of déjà vu when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled the latest model in its iPhone line back in September. Largely unchanged from its previous version, the iPhone 5S did gain one noticeable change to its hardware in its half-measure "S" upgrade: a fingerprint scanner in the home button. Dubbed Touch ID, the scanner and software would unlock the phone at the press of a user's finger rather than requiring a four-digit passcode. The system gained mild acclaim for acting as a security incentive for users who found it too slow or cumbersome to implement a passcode to unlock their phones.

Unfortunately, many are finding that Touch ID is too fickle to be effective, signaling Apple may have rushed the feature to production before it was perfected.

A thread entitled "Touch ID being Erratic" is bursting at the seams with responses on Apple's support forums. At the time of this writing, it's currently at 30 pages with over 27,000 views.

Users are chiming in on social media and elsewhere to report that Touch ID has failed them -- some get a success rate of 90%, others find the system consistently fails to recognize their prints. A number of workarounds have been suggested in the thread -- re-registering your prints, washing your hands, wiping the phone (virtually), wiping the phone (literally), etc. -- but few are reporting a permanent fix. Many have taken their iPhones to the Apple Genius Bar for replacements, but unfortunately, those are plagued with the same problems.

"I have the same issue and Apple has already replaced the phone once," commenter Bob Giammarco writes. "The new phone does the same thing."

He adds, "I'm just about ready to return the 5S."

Another user has a pretty cynical view of the whole Touch ID system. "Frankly, I consider Apple's use of Touch ID in the 5S as being one step above a marketing gimmick," MisterMojo writes. "I'm amazed that it works as well as it does."

But it's not just Apple forums where iPhone 5S owners are expressing their frustrations. Wall Street Journal editor Dennis K. Berman took to Twitter to unfavorably compare Touch ID to another one of Apple's missteps.

"After a month with iPhone 5S, I can report the fingerprint sensor is just like Siri -- it works a very frustrating 70% of the time."

A poll on the Apple news site TUAW corroborated those results with nearly one-fifth of users reporting a success rate below 75%. One comment reads, "Mine works less than 5% of the time. Extremely disappointed. I tried adding more prints and everything. Still disappoints. I am hoping they get it 100% right next time."

As for now, sadly, there is no perfect remedy for the situation. So for all the happy iPhone 5S users who were blessed with working Touch ID systems, godspeed. But for the many unlucky owners who can't get their device to recognize their fingerprints, better get used to entering in your passcodes like you always have.

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