Occasionally, when unlocking my iPhone or iPad, I get the following message:

Your passcode is required to enable Touch ID

Now this is not after a number of failed attempts or turning the device off. The device was used within the last 12 hours. Two of the devices are less than 2 months old, and one is a year old. Everything is up to date. It appears to be happening more-or-less at random.

Does anybody know why this message might appear?

  • What version of iOS? Even where I thought that error wording appeared it appears to have been changed/re-worded to differt wording in current iOS. – Tyson Jan 17 '16 at 20:36
  • @Tyson 9.2. Wording was copied literally from the error message. I’m starting to think that The device thinks it’s bee restarted, but (a) it is happening with multiple devices, so that makes hardware unlikely and (b) after a restart, the wording is different. – Manngo Jan 17 '16 at 20:43
  • Right, I actually think that used to be the wording when you turned Touch ID on in settings, now it just straight up asks your passcode when you go to Touch ID in settings. I tried to find a place in 9.2 that gave me that message and I could not. Google the error message with quotes around it, at least one article I found suggests a hack or malware. – Tyson Jan 17 '16 at 20:53
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    iOS 9.3.2 user here - my phone still does this. – user191889 Jul 13 '16 at 1:15
  • This is not necessarily a bug. If it happens every few days or so it could be deliberate to make sure the user actually uses the code every once in a while. – Daniel Jul 23 '16 at 12:05

There are certain rules that iOS uses that govern when your iPhone will prompt you for your passcode, and one of these relates to an 8hr period during which Touch ID has not been used. That alone would explain the scenario in your question (i.e. some nights you’re getting 8+ hrs of sleep, and other nights you’re not).

All of the Touch ID rules can be found in Apple’s iOS Security Guide. In summary though, the rules governing when a passcode is required instead of your fingerprint, are as follows:

  • The passcode has not been used to unlock the device in the last six days
  • Your fingerprint has not been used to unlock the device in the last eight hours 1
  • You have just powered up (or rebooted) your device
  • Your device has not been unlocked for more than 48 hours
  • You’ve unsuccessfully tried to use your fingerprint on five consecutive attempts
  • Whenever you add a fingerprint to your Touch ID settings
  • Your device has received a remote lock command

Regarding that last point, this refers to iCloud’s Lost Mode function. For more info you can read iCloud: Use Lost Mode.

See more details: http://www.macworld.com/article/3072181/ios/new-touch-id-rules-why-you-have-to-enter-your-passcode-when-you-wake-up.html

1 This is most likely the cause in your situation most of the time.

  • Seems reasonable but any documentation showing this or is this your guess? – user151019 Jul 13 '16 at 9:30
  • Added a link with additional details – samh Jul 13 '16 at 11:45
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    Thanks. I think that answers the question. It’s not a bad idea, but it would have been nice if the message were clearer, or the information were more obvious, rather than being buried somewhere inside a 63 page PDF file … – Manngo Jul 23 '16 at 12:15
  • The 8 hrs period seems inappropriate to me for an iPad (it's okay for an iPhone though). I think, it should be at least 12 or 14 hrs, or even better, configurable. I have sent feedback to Apple, and maybe you would like to do the same. – not2savvy Jan 15 '18 at 9:06
  • For me it's the 5 consecutive attempts that I run into the most – information_interchange Jun 15 '18 at 17:31

FWIW, I experienced the same thing on an iPad mini 4 on 9.2.1 today. Was using the iPad < 12 hrs before. The wording was identical to above. When I restart the device different wording is used: iPad requires your passcode after restarting.

This implies something happening with Touch ID itself, rather than a date/time bug or the device restarting. Perhaps Touch ID or a related service is crashing unseen.


Maybe you have been accidentally touching the Touch ID sensor without realizing it and it locked up. This has happened to me before without a restart and apparently it had been trying to get my fingerprint in my pocket... Also, perhaps another culprit (maybe a child or loved one) has been messing with Touch ID.

  • That’s not a bad thought. Does anybody else have any information on the sensor mis-firing like this? – Manngo Feb 15 '16 at 20:47
  • @Manngo I think this especially happens on the 6S (with the 2nd generation Touch ID sensor) which is crazy fast and sensitive. – Tre S Feb 15 '16 at 20:49

This is a software bug in iOS 9. It happens to me at least twice a week on my iPad. You could submit a bug report to Apple, but I would imagine it will be fixed with either iOS 9.3 next month or iOS 10 in September.

  • Is this a known bug? Presumably it would have already been submitted to Apple? – Manngo Feb 15 '16 at 20:46
  • Yes. Here's a Reddit thread. Just one of many examples: bit.ly/1oEGRo1 – CSstudent Feb 15 '16 at 21:01
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    As described "The device was used within the last 12 hours" it is not necessarily a bug, see samh's answer regarding requiring a passcode after 8 hours "if you haven't used your passcode to unlock within the last six days". – Ali Beadle Jul 13 '16 at 16:09
  • Come on, a reddit thread proof to a technical question about OS? – RusI Oct 13 '17 at 12:48

Are we talking of phones that are in your (jeans) pocket? It happens to me if I accidentally hit the touch ID sensor when reaching into my pocket. The other culprit in my case is my daughter playing with my phone when I don't watch.

  • No. This also happens overnight on the charger. I think the accepted answer is worth reading. – Manngo Oct 22 '17 at 1:34

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