How to set up Touch ID on the iPhone SE

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Fri April 24, 2020

While Face ID is the easy and secure way to unlock the iPhone 11 family, the new iPhone SE uses Touch ID. In fact, it's a second-generation Touch ID backed into a haptic home button. And while we'll leave our full thoughts on the second-generation iPhone SE to our review, it's a fast experience that requires some physicality — at least for your finger muscles.

And here's your guide to setting up Touch ID.

When you first set up the 2020 iPhone SE, you'll need to create a passcode and then set up Touch ID.

Instructions within iOS 13 will explain it during the process, but the short of it is that your fingerprint can be used to unlock your iPhone, authenticate purchases, fill-in passwords and be used for accurate authentication. If your fingerprint fails to be recognized, it will default to your passcode.

You'll start by adding just one thumb or finger of your choosing, doing an initial scan and laying your thumbprint or fingerprint flat on the home button. The process will have you repeat this a few times and you'll feel a buzz or slight vibration with each tap, letting you know the sensor has read it.

On the screen, you'll see a mock fingerprint go from gray to a light red, showing your progress. It's important to note that you need to move your fingerprint every time you repress (during the setup process), as the sensor is trying to scan your fingerprint. This way, no matter which orientation you press your fingerprint on the sensor, it should give you a successful recognition.

The iPhone will then ask you to "adjust your grip" and the sensors will capture the sides and top of the fingerprint. After all, when unlocking your iPhone on the go, you might not put your finger exactly on the button.

You can get a little cozy for this step. We found that when we scanned our thumb, we switched from holding it horizontally and pressing it flat again — but also showed the left, right and top sides of it to the sensor. Again, the iPhone SE will produce feedback in the form of small vibrations to let you know it's properly reading it.

Once your fingerprint has been added, you can continue with the setup of your iPhone. But did you know that Touch ID allows for five fingerprints to be registered?

Just head to Settings and scroll down to "Touch ID & Passcode." You'll need to manually type in your passcode to proceed, and here you can see how to customize Touch ID. Notably, you can choose to turn on or off what it can authenticate: unlocking your phone, payments in the App Store, authenticating Apple Pay and password autofill.

You'll also see a list of fingerprints that are registered; "Finger 1" will be the fingerprint you registered during setup. But you can click "add a fingerprint ..." and complete the process up to four more times for a total of five. We recommend adding at least one print from either hand, so you can unlock your iPhone SE with multiple fingers.

Touch ID is handy and simple to set up, but it's also important to remember how secure it is. It protects your phone from unwanted access and all the information you have stored in it. Your fingerprint is quite unique, so there's only a one in 50,000 chance that another fingerprint could unlock your phone, versus a one in a million chance with Face ID. So yes, while Face ID is more secure, Touch ID is no slouch.

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