Rest in peace, little magic button.
TouchID could have changed the world, perhaps. It could definitely be used by a cat, and hackers jokingly offered more than $10,000, a “dirty sex” book, bottles of Patron Silver and Bulleit Bourbon, among other booze, to anyone who could hack it.
It took a German biometric hacker just four days. (It’s unclear if he ever got the book and booze.)
TouchID held so much promise, but the much-vaunted feature unveiled by Apple on September 10, 2013 with the launch of the iPhone 5s (still supported by Apple by the way), is now dead.
At the time, like a lot of things Apple is trying to sell us these days, it was supposed to be revolutionary. TouchID, in many ways, actually was. (And not because you couldn’t “take the fifth” anymore.)
Gone were the days of tapping four times on the 0 key to unlock the phone with an annoyed snort. You could now just rest your finger on the home button and voila! And it was really that simple.
While Phil Schiller introduced it by juxtaposing it next to the “too cumbersome passcode,” TouchID was the first security feature to get such a bright spotlight during an iPhone day. At the time, Schiller noted, “half of smartphone users” did not set up their passcode on the iPhone. It was a different era, where cops were publicly asking users to upgrade their iOS for additional security, and Apple had yet to fight the US government in court over a locked iPhone.
The new iPhones announced on Wednesday, the iPhone XS, the XS Max, and the XR, only use FaceID, TouchID’s heir apparent. FaceID was introduced in 2017 in a perhaps less flawless fashion.
“Unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up,” Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said as the then-brand-new $999 iPhone X failed to unlock. “And you know—let’s try that again.”
Apparently, that fail wasn’t FaceID’s fault. And anyway, iPhone owners now “love it,” Schiller said on Wednesday.
FaceID was “really hard” to hack according to Wired. It took a little longer than TouchID, but someone still did it. Yet, many security and privacy experts do think it is a bit better than TouchID—even though your evil twin can unlock it.
TouchID, for now, will live on in the older iPhones, including the 7 and 8, which were still displayed on the big screen at the Apple event today as part of the company’s “lineup.”
But at this point, alas, it’s unclear if Apple will resuscitate it in future products.
I asked an Apple representative if the company will bring it back but he did not immediately respond to my email.
You will be missed, little button. I will keep using you—without prosthetics fingerprints—until my beloved iPhone 7 dies.
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