Opinion: Touch ID improves iPad security at cost of Smart Cover unlock convenience

Posted:
in iPad edited December 2014
The auto-unlock feature of the iPad Smart Cover was once touted as a unique and convenient way of interacting with Apple's tablet, but it has now been hampered by the addition of Touch ID to the latest iPad models.




In its current implementation, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor for both iPad and iPhone is tied to the lock screen passcode. This makes sense for the iPhone, which you take with you and are liable to lose in public.

However, I can't help but feel like there must be a better way to implement Touch ID on the iPad.

My iPad almost never leaves my home, and I use it with a Smart Cover. Over the years, I've come to enjoy the auto-unlock feature, which unlocks the display once the Smart Cover is removed from the screen.

But after upgrading to the new iPad Air 2, I've found there's no good way to continue using the smart unlock feature with Touch ID.




Touch ID for App Store and iTunes Store purchases is great. And Apple Pay integration is also a welcome feature on the latest iPads.

But neither of these features can be used without a passcode lock enabled on the iPad.

What I'd like to be able to do is enable Touch ID support for purchases, third-party app logins and otherwise, without having a lock screen passcode. I'd like to get my Smart Cover unlock functionality back.

Considering the vast majority of my iPad usage takes place within my own home, a lock screen passcode is unnecessary. But the convenience of Touch ID when passwords are necessary remains.




Through a number of patent filings, we know that Apple has explored location-based security settings, which could allow users to set their own "trusted" areas where a device could be freely used without the need for passcode entry. It would be nice if I could disable the lockscreen passcode on my iPad, and allow the Smart Cover unlock feature, when it is being used at my home, while Touch ID authentication would automatically be enabled when my iPad is used on the go.

Unfortunately, Apple's current implementation of Touch ID on iPad doesn't feel as though it is well thought out. It's clear that Touch ID for iPad is just an extension of what has already been successfully established on the iPhone.

But the iPad is a different device than the iPhone, with very different use cases. It should be treated differently.

At the moment, I can disable Touch ID support for the iPad lock screen, which allows me to disable the passcode requirement for up to four hours after the device has been unlocked, thus temporarily enabling the smart unlock capability.




But after four hours of not being used, the iPad once again requires a passcode entry, and it will not accept Touch ID. Enabling Touch ID disables this four-hour window.

For those more interested in the Smart Cover unlock feature than Touch ID, Apple allows Touch ID to be disabled entirely. But again, this feels like a step backwards.

Touch ID lockscreen security is undoubtedly an important feature for a number of users, particularly companies looking to roll out secure tablets to their workforce.




But surely there is a significant number of home users --?myself included --?who are less concerned about security and more about convenience. In this case, while Touch ID is more convenient for App Store purchases, it's less convenient on the iPad lock screen.

For now, I'll keep Touch ID enabled on the lock screen. But I'm considering ditching my Smart Cover, which adds weight to my iPad and no longer unlocks the screen.

Hopefully in the future, an iPad-specific change will provide me with the best uses of both Touch ID and Smart Cover.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 129

    There's a lot of ways they need to begin to differentiate iOS between the iPad and iPhone, and the fact that they haven't done so yet is confusing and frustrating. Why the iPhone 6 Plus got a better keyboard and we got the same old iPad keyboard was the first bit of confusion...

  • Reply 2 of 129
    Very good article. Another annoyance worth pointing out is the top versus side on/off button on the iPad versus the iPhone. This would not have -- I can't believe I am actually about to say this (but I guess there's always a first time) -- happened under Steve.
  • Reply 3 of 129
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,044member

    It's ironic people are complaining about security features on Apple devices when they (we) scream at the NSA for saying we should have any encryption. If you leave your iPad unlocked, anyone can get to any of your data. The complaints about a shorter unlock time is like saying you're willing to leave your car or house unlocked for several minutes to hours but get mad when someone simply opens your unlocked door. If you want security, then use it and quit complaining.

     

    I was walking downtown last night and noticed a dentist office's PC was still logged in. The office was closed but the PC wasn't logged out or at least locked. Just because the front door was locked doesn't mean their system, with all their patient data on it, was safe. The iPad smart cover doesn't have a lock to it so it would have been the same as this dentist's door if it had been unlocked. There goes all the your data.

     

    Always lock your iPhone and iPad unless you have it in your hand. Your data and access to all your information is just a few clicks away (remember keychain stores your passwords for websites so an unlocked iPad is a gateway to lots of other information).

  • Reply 4 of 129
    I find this article bizarre.

    I had an iPad and iPad 2 for four years. I've only had an iPad Air 2 for a few weeks, yet I love Touch ID and would never want to type a password instead. I wish I could use Touch ID for writing reviews on the App Store.

    If the author is so pained by putting his finger on the Home button for a second, I suggest that he doesn't bother putting the screen to sleep. Alternatively, if he never takes his iPad anywhere, why not just turn off Touch ID?

    This is a solution in search of a problem.
  • Reply 5 of 129
    My iPad is used outside the home every day -- at meetings, taking notes, reading documents and manuals, reviewing literature, doing literature searches, importing articles for later reference.

    In any case, the auto lock/unlock is not hampered at all by its integration with TouchID. Open the cover and place one of your fingers on the button -- viola. Takes all of about 1/2 second more than if TouchID was not present. If I need to look to/from iPad frequently, I don't shut the cover!

    My god! What a fine whine this article is.
  • Reply 6 of 129
    This is beyond bizarre. This person it just crazy. Looks like a weekend article for sure. This person is imagining issues that do not exist.
  • Reply 7 of 129
    guti2068 wrote: »
    This is beyond bizarre. This person it just crazy. Looks like a weekend article for sure. This person is imagining issues that do not exist.

    I agree.

    The Smart Cover 'adds weight'? Please. It weighs next to nothing. I've always used a Smart Cover with my iPads, and Touch ID integrates perfectly with it. In fact, it's actually better with the Smart Cover because you don't have to press down on the Home button; you just rest your finger, and it unlocks as soon as it recognises it, making it a little quicker than without the Smart Cover.

    I can only presume that the author never bothered to use a password on his iPad before Touch ID. I did, and would never go back to typing in a password.
  • Reply 8 of 129
    Exactly, and even in your home all computer and cellphones should have a password. You never know if some one brakes in
  • Reply 9 of 129
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post



    Very good article. Another annoyance worth pointing out is the top versus side on/off button on the iPad versus the iPhone. This would not have -- I can't believe I am actually about to say this (but I guess there's always a first time) -- happened under Steve.



    Why? The headphone jack was in different place between iPhone and iPod Touch under Steve, was it not?

     

    On topic. I don't have Smart Cover yet. Plan to buy it. Still if we want to nitpicking I'll say using Touch ID on iPad isn't as convenient as on iPhone. Why? When you hold iPhone, your thumb is naturally at the Touch ID button. This is not the case with iPad. I'll say the natural place for Touch ID for iPad is on the side bezel, not the bottom frame. Funny I don't have this sentiment (Home Screen button is out of place) when I was using iPad 2 with no Touch ID. That could be because I was always using Smart Cover and rarely turned on my iPad 2 by Swipe to Unlock.

  • Reply 10 of 129

    Reading article gives me the impression that one cannot use his/her fingerprint to unlock the iPad and must type the passcode. It takes me a minute combing through the comments to find out that's not the case. The iPad can register 5 fingerprints. Get everybody in your home to put their thumbs on it and you are set. Of course if the iPad never leaves home and only trusted users have access to it, why bother locking it then complaining about the inconvenience?

  • Reply 11 of 129
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoffdino View Post

     

    Reading article gives me the impression that one cannot use his/her fingerprint to unlock the iPad and must type the passcode. It takes me a minute combing through the comments to find out that's not the case. The iPad can register 5 fingerprints. Get everybody in your home to put their thumbs on it and you are set. Of course if the iPad never leaves home and only trusted users have access to it, why bother locking it then complaining about the inconvenience?


    There are a number of instances -- e.g., a restart -- when a passcode is necessarily required before TouchID can be used again.

  • Reply 12 of 129
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post



    Why? The headphone jack was in different place between iPhone and iPod Touch under Steve, was it not?


    It was different before it was the same.

  • Reply 13 of 129
    Without having to read the article, just from the title, I realized this guy probably never locked his iPad in the first place. I use a smart cover and my iPad is locked. When I lift the smart cover I have to type in my password. Touch ID is not a problem for anybody who has locked their iPad. This is truly a stupid weekend article to find a problem where there is no problem.
  • Reply 14 of 129
    The author must be really lazy. Apparently he has no visitors to his place or no kids, nieces or nephews that gravitate towards iPads when they visit to find out if you have any games to play on it without your permission. One time I was writing a rather personal email to a friend who I found out had cancer. Before I finished, had to answer the door so closed the Smart Cover to answer the door. Other friends dropped by with their kids. The kids ran straight to the iPad and because there was no pin code or Touch ID on, they proceeded to read out the personal email. Passcode or Touch ID is needed at home even if the iPad never leaves home.
  • Reply 15 of 129
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    It was different before it was the same.




    It was the same when Steve Jobs was no longer with us.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post



    Without having to read the article, just from the title, I realized this guy probably never locked his iPad in the first place.

     

    I'm guilty of this too. I, like the author, very rarely use iPad out of my house. 

  • Reply 16 of 129
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,907member

    A cool feature I've seen mentioned elsewhere would be setting geofences where security is not required, such as your house.  So whenever you're connected to your home wi-fi, no TouchID or password needed.

  • Reply 17 of 129
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,907member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post



    This is a solution in search of a problem.

    Huh?  What's the solution then?  The problem seems pretty clear cut to me.

  • Reply 18 of 129
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    It's ironic people are complaining about security features on Apple devices when they (we) scream at the NSA for saying we should have any encryption. If you leave your iPad unlocked, anyone can get to any of your data. The complaints about a shorter unlock time is like saying you're willing to leave your car or house unlocked for several minutes to hours but get mad when someone simply opens your unlocked door. If you want security, then use it and quit complaining.

     

    I was walking downtown last night and noticed a dentist office's PC was still logged in. The office was closed but the PC wasn't logged out or at least locked. Just because the front door was locked doesn't mean their system, with all their patient data on it, was safe. The iPad smart cover doesn't have a lock to it so it would have been the same as this dentist's door if it had been unlocked. There goes all the your data.

     

    Always lock your iPhone and iPad unless you have it in your hand. Your data and access to all your information is just a few clicks away (remember keychain stores your passwords for websites so an unlocked iPad is a gateway to lots of other information).




     Whether it's a personal device or a LAN in an office, security and convenience have to be balanced.  

     

    It's nice that Apple gives us options.

  • Reply 19 of 129

    I've had a passcode lock on my iPads since day one, so unlocking with the TouchID is far easier to me. 

  • Reply 20 of 129
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,094member

    I think the author expended 100X the amount of time writing this article than the total amount of time lost in a year to having to touch his finger to the TouchID to unlock his iPad. I suppose Apple could make the use cases covered by Touch ID more granular, i.e., add the ability to only apply Touch ID based authorization to functions within the operating system but not on the use of the operating system. This would of course increase the complexity. The last thing I want in any iOS device is the need for an Admin Console with a hierarchy of how security features are doled out over different functions of the device, user groups, roles, etc..

     

    Adding more complexity to security granularity admin would be the beginnings of the Death of KISS.

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