iPhone 13 really should bring back Touch ID but it seems it won’t

A sensor behind the screen is still being tested behind the scenes, so won't arrive in iPhone 13

iPhone 13 fingerprint Touch ID sensor
(Image credit: Future)

Boooo! Booooooo! Boooooooooo! It seems likely that the feature I want most for the iPhone 13 isn’t going to make it: while Apple is indeed working on a Touch ID sensor that’ll live behind the iPhone’s screen (as I hoped for here), according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman it’s not going to be ready in time for the iPhone 13. I was pretty pessimistic about its chances, but it’s still disappointing. 

First-world problems I know, but I really miss Touch ID on my face-scanning iPhone 12.

For many people, Face ID was just fine until COVID came along: suddenly we were masking and it turned out that we simply weren’t showing enough face for our phones. That’s going to be an issue for some time to come, and while Pay With Passcode is fine (if slower) in Apple Pay and Apple Wallet my bank apps want to see my whole face before they’ll let me see how broke I am. 

But it’s not just COVID. There are times when Touch ID is just better.

Faces are ace but fingers are better

I think Face ID is brilliant from a technological point of view, and in ideal, non-masked conditions it’s faster – or at least, it is when compared to Apple sticking the Touch ID sensor somewhere like in the thin sleep-wake button of my iPad Air (2020). There it’s not so much Touch ID as Touch Aaaagh Wrong Corner Flip iPad Touch Touch Touch For God’s Sake Touch Touch Touch Swear Swear Touch Sod It Enter Passcode ID.

But Touch ID has its own strengths. It’s more subtle than Face ID, because you don’t need to have your phone so close to your head. You can unlock your phone when it’s on your desk, or in the car: if you’ve ever tried unlocking your phone with Face ID when it’s stuck to your windscreen because the phone isn’t showing Maps you’ll know what a futile endeavour that is; it’s infuriating when parked and don’t even think about it when you’re driving. 

So I’m glad Touch ID is said to be on its way back, even if it’s going to take a bit longer than I’d hope. And realistically it’s not going to put me off the iPhone 13: there are plenty of other reasons why the iPhone 13 is still going to be a great upgrade. But still – it really would've been nice if Apple could have squeezed this upgrade earlier.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).