How to Discreetly Disable Touch ID and Face ID on an iPhone

by

There's an Emergency SOS feature built into iOS 11 that has hidden functionality -- it automatically disables Touch ID and makes it so your passcode has to be entered to unlock your iPhone.

Because it essentially shuts down the biometrics on your device, you can't be compelled by a police officer or malicious person to unlock your iPhone with a fingerprint, nor can your fingerprint be used to get into your device should you be unconscious after an emergency. On iPhone X, this also applies to Face ID.

Emergency SOS is enabled by default, and there's only one step to activate it: Press on the sleep/wake (Side) button of your iPhone five times in rapid succession. On the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, instead of pressing the Side button five times rapidly, you hold down the Side button and one of the volume buttons at the same time. It's essentially a quick squeeze on either side of the device.


These gestures initiates a screen that gives you the option to power the iPhone off, make a call to emergency services, or access your Medical ID.

Though not expressly stated, once your iPhone is in this emergency state, Touch ID is disabled. You will, however, have to press the cancel button to get back to the Home screen, so it's not an entirely secretive process.

If you're using Emergency SOS to disable the lock screen and don't want to set the feature up to automatically call 911 when the sleep/wake button is pressed, make sure to disable Auto Call in the Settings app. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down to Emergency SOS.
  3. Disable Auto Call.

With Auto Call disabled, pressing sleep/wake will bring up the aforementioned screen with the option to slide to make the emergency call. With Auto Call enabled, emergency services are called automatically when the sleep/wake button is pressed five times, following a five second countdown timer.

It's best to leave Auto Call on if you want to be able to get in touch with emergency services immediately should you be in danger.

While this feature was likely built to keep your iPhone secure in a situation where you might be incapacitated, it can also prevent authority figures from forcing you to unlock your device.

This is notable because there have been legal rulings where a defendant has been compelled to provide a fingerprint, but not a passcode. Most people will never need to disable Touch ID, but it's worth knowing the option is there should there be a situation where it is necessary.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
36 months ago
Useful feature. Hopefully I'll never have to use it, but good to know it's there.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago
And to turn it back on, hold it over your head tilted at a 47 degree angle, hop 3 times, and say "Hey Siri, who is John Galt?", then boom, you're back in business.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago

And to turn it back on, hold it over your head tilted at a 47 degree angle, hop 3 times, and say "Hey Siri, who is John Galt?", then boom, you're back in business.

You just need to enter your pass code to unlock and biometrics is automatically back on. No need to sarcastically scroll through settings to enable it.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago

nor can your fingerprint be used to get into your device should you be unconscious after an emergency.

If you are unconscious, how do you hit the button five times.

People... enough of this crazy paranoid stuff. Unless you are a murderer, kiddie molester or big time drug dealer the police don’t really care about your phone. If a cop gets in your phone illegally, it is thrown out in court.

And for Gods sake, if you are being robbed, give them the damn phone. Disable it later or track it with the police. They can’t do anything without your icloud passcode.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago

Useful feature. Hopefully I'll never have to use it, but good to know it's there.

I agree. Under stress, someone may not know how to utilize this feature or simply forget it. I would practice it just so the user has an understanding of how it works and access it if ever needed.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago

Useful feature. Hopefully I'll never have to use it, but good to know it's there.

Yes, a nice feature hope to never have to use. Maybe a small detail, but I noticed that the message shown is "Touch ID does not recognize your fingerprint", which also provides a little more protection since it doesn't indicate that you disabled Touch ID or even own the phone necessarily.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Model Size Compared to Original iPhone SE and iPhone 7

Saturday July 4, 2020 9:44 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 dummy models based on leaked schematics have been starting to circulate online and in online marketplaces. Not happy with the circulating size comparisons between the rumored 5.4" iPhone 12 and the original iPhone SE models, MacRumors forum user iZac took matters into his own hands and purchased his own 5.4" dummy model to provide more detailed size comparisons between the original...

Apple Survey Asks iPhone Users What They Do With Old Power Adapters

Friday July 3, 2020 10:13 am PDT by
Amid multiple reports that Apple will no longer include a power adapter in its iPhone boxes starting with the iPhone 12 later this year, it appears Apple is surveying recent iPhone buyers to ask about what they've done with the power adapters that came with their previous iPhones. Screenshot via Twitter user @bedabb_ Apple's surveys typically cover numerous aspects of its products, but...

Top Stories: iPhone 12 Rumors, Apple's A12Z-Based Mac mini, Leaked iMac, and More!

Saturday July 4, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
With WWDC now behind us, our attention this week largely turned back to rumors, led by increasing claims that Apple controversially won't be including a power adapter in the box with the iPhone 12. We also saw a few other iPhone 12 rumors, signs of an upcoming iMac update, and some more information on timing of updates for Apple's smaller iPads. The other big topic this week was Apple's...

Apple Officially Obsoletes First MacBook Pro With a Retina Display

Wednesday July 1, 2020 3:40 am PDT by
As expected, Apple's first MacBook Pro with a Retina display is now officially classed as "obsolete" worldwide, just over eight years after its release. In a support document, Apple notes that obsolete products are no longer eligible for hardware service, with "no exceptions." This means that any mid-2012 Retina MacBook Pro 15-inch models still out there that require a battery or other...

Kuo: Largan to Ship 'High-End' Camera Lenses for 'iPhone 12' From Mid-July

Friday July 3, 2020 1:56 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming "iPhone 12" will feature "high-end" lens arrays in the rear camera to improve image quality, according to respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a new research note seen by MacRumors, Kuo says Largan will supply the premium camera lenses to Apple for the phones from mid-July, although Apple has received the same components slightly earlier in the last couple of years....

First Arm-Based Macs to Be 13-Inch MacBook Pro and Redesigned iMac, Launches Coming in Late 2020 or Early 2021

Sunday June 21, 2020 9:18 am PDT by
Apple plans to introduce its Arm-based custom designed chips for Macs at WWDC, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors today, agreeing with an earlier report from Bloomberg. Kuo says that the first Mac models to adopt Arm-based chips will be the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and an iMac with a redesigned form factor, with Apple planning to launch the new models in the in fourth...

Apple Bolsters Supply Chain for Future Mini-LED iPad Pro and MacBook Pro Models

Thursday July 2, 2020 3:03 am PDT by
Apple is rumored to be releasing a mini LED-backlit iPad Pro and a new mini-LED MacBook Pro series over the next 18 months, and the devices have just picked up two new suppliers, according to industry sources. DigiTimes today reports that two former Apple suppliers, Taiwan's Zhen Ding Technology and Flexium Interconnect, have entered the supply chain to make the flexible printed circuit...

EU Advertisers Criticize New App Tracking Privacy Controls in iOS 14

Friday July 3, 2020 3:44 am PDT by
A Google-backed group of European digital advertising associations has criticized Apple for requiring apps in iOS 14 to seek additional permission from users before tracking them across other apps and websites, reports Reuters. Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook and Alphabet's Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user...

Unreleased iMac With 10-Core Comet Lake-S Chip and Radeon Pro 5300 GPU Shows Up in Geekbench

Wednesday July 1, 2020 10:48 am PDT by
Benchmarks for an unreleased iMac equipped with a 10th-generation Core i9 Intel Comet Lake-S chip and an AMD Radeon Pro 5300 graphics card have surfaced, giving us an idea of what we can expect from a refreshed 2020 iMac. The Geekbench benchmarks, which appear to be legit, were found on Twitter and shared this morning by Tom's Hardware. The iMac in the benchmarks would be a successor to the...

LinkedIn Says iOS App Reading Clipboard With Every Keystroke is a Bug, Fix Coming

Friday July 3, 2020 1:08 pm PDT by
iOS 14 introduces a feature that alerts users when apps access their clipboards, and tons of apps have been caught clipboard snooping. LinkedIn is one of the iOS apps that has been reading user clipboards, and iPhone owners have complained that the app copies the contents of the clipboard with every keystroke. LinkedIn is copying the contents of my clipboard every keystroke. IOS 14 allows ...