iPhone X Face ID FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New Authentication System

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 16 Sep 2017

Ever since Apple unveiled the iPhone X earlier this week and demoed Face ID on stage, there has been a lot of speculation surrounding it. Many people believe Face ID is not going to be as convenient as Touch ID or it is not going to be as safe as the latter despite Apple claiming otherwise.

Others have raised doubts on how Face ID will work in daily use. Apple itself has been clearing a lot of doubts consumers have surrounding Face ID, with others being automatically cleared once the iPhone X launches on November 3 and customers get their hands on it.

We are also here to help you clear some of your doubts regarding Face ID. Read the FAQ below.

Q) How does Face ID work? Does it make use of the front-facing 7MP camera? 

A) While many Android smartphones featuring Face Unlock do so by making use of the front-facing camera, Apple’s implementation is much better and makes use of its TrueDepth camera system. Apart from the 7MP camera, Apple has also hidden a bevy of IR sensors, dot projector, and flood illuminator in the notch of the iPhone X which is used scanning a user’s face and other key points like their eyes and nose. These sensors will work just fine in low-light scenarios like a dark room without any issues as well.

TrueDepth camera components iPhone X

Q) Will Face ID work in dark and low-light conditions?

A) Yes, it will. Apple includes a flood illuminator — essentially an infrared light invisible to the naked eye — on the iPhone X which helps the TrueDepth camera system to work at night in the dark or low-light conditions.

iPhone X Face ID system

Q) How does one unlock an iPhone X using Face ID?

A) Pick up your iPhone X at which point the phone should already wake up and show the lock screen thanks to Raise to wake. If the screen does not wake up for some reason, you can double tap on the display to wake it up. By this point, if you are looking at the display of your iPhone X, Face ID would have already scanned your face and if your iPhone X has been unlocked, an unlock symbol would show up on the lock screen. You can now unlock your iPhone X by simply swiping up from the lock screen.

While this whole process might sound lengthy and tedious, they all happen simultaneously and in just a few seconds. So, you won’t really have to wait for Face ID to recognize your face before you can swipe up from the lock screen to unlock your iPhone X.

Q) How well does Face ID work in real-life use?

A) While it is difficult to comment on how well Face ID works in real-life use until the iPhone X launches, early reviews do seem to be positive.

Below is what well-known Apple blogger John Gruber had to say about Face ID:

But I spent time — both officially, as a member of the media, and unofficially, as a friend — with several Apple employees who are already carrying an iPhone X as their daily-use phone, and from what I observed and from what they told me — and again, several of these employees are engineers, not PR or product marketing folks — it just works. You don’t have to think about it. According to them, you get used to not thinking about it very quickly, and when you go back to a Touch ID device, it feels broken that you have to touch the button to unlock the device.

Q) How safe is Face ID? Can someone else unlock your phone by just pointing it to your face?

A) As per Apple, Face ID is more secure than Touch ID with a failure rate of 1 in 1,00,000 compared to 1 in 50,000 for the latter. To make Face ID as secure as possible, Apple scans some key points of a user’s face including their eyes and nose. Face ID will also only unlock your iPhone X when you are looking at the device. So, if you are not looking at your iPhone X, Face ID will not unlock your handset.

Q) Is Face ID secure? Where does Apple store the facial map?

The dot projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to build your unique facial map. An infrared camera then reads the dot pattern, captures an infrared image, then sends the data to the secure enclave in the A11 Bionic chip to confirm a match. Face ID is also designed to prevent spoofing by photos or masks. The facial map is also encrypted and protected by the Secure Enclave in the A11 Bionic chip just like Touch ID. It is not stored in the cloud.

Q) Is Face ID available on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus?

A) No, Face ID is only available on the iPhone X.

Q) What happens if Face ID does not work for some reason? How does one unlock their iPhone X then?

A) Similar to Touch ID, if Face ID fails for some reason, you will be prompted to enter your six-digit passcode to unlock your iPhone X.

Q) How many faces can one register on Face ID?

A) Only one.

Q) Will Face ID work with sunglasses and normal prescription glasses?

A) Apple has already made it clear that Face ID will work with most sunglasses out there. Only sunglasses which have a coating that blocks infrared rays will not work with Face ID. Normal prescription glasses are not going to be an issue with Face ID as well.

Q) What happens if someone grows a beard? Or gets a drastic makeover for some reason? Will Face ID still work?

A) Yes. Apple says that Face ID will work even if you grow a beard, shave off your existing beard, or get some other drastic makeovers. This is because Face ID registers multiple points of a user’s face for optimum security and safety. Face ID will also keep learning and adapting to one’s face for improved recognition.

Q) Cannot one skip the lock screen and jump directly to the home screen on the iPhone X when using Face ID?

A) No. This is possible on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, but on the iPhone X, there is no way to completely skip the lock screen when using Face ID. Apple says this is important because people might just look at their phone to see the time and unread notifications.

Q) What if I want Face ID to work even when I am not looking at the device?

A) You can disable the “attention aware” feature of Face ID. Then, your iPhone X will be unlocked even if you are not looking at the device.

Q) Do developers have access to Face ID on the iPhone X?

A) Apple is providing developers with access to the relevant APIs and data so as to integrate new features into their apps using Face ID. As shown by Apple during the demo, Face ID along with ARKit can be used to offer new Snap filters.

Q) How can one disable Face ID on the iPhone X in an emergency?

A) Apple has included the option of quickly disabling Face ID on the iPhone X by simply pressing the volume and sleep/wake button simultaneously. This feature can come in handy when you give your iPhone X to someone who is interested in checking the phone or in other emergency situations.

Q) Is Face ID used only for locking/unlocking the iPhone X? Or can it be used for other purposes as well?

A) Apart from locking/unlocking the device, Face ID can also be used by developers inside their apps just like Touch ID. Face ID can also be used for authorizing App Store transactions and Apple Pay.

Q) How does one use Face ID for Apple Pay transactions?

A) For verifying Apple Pay transactions, one first needs to verify their face and then bring their iPhone near the payment terminal. To initiate the payment process then, one needs to double press the sleep/wake button.

Q) How does Face ID automatically disable itself? Like it happened during Apple’s demo?

A) Face ID is automatically disabled in the same scenarios as Touch ID. They are as follows:

  • Face ID is automatically disabled after 48 hours of inactivity
  • After you restart your iPhone
  • If there are five failed attempts to unlock an iPhone X using Face ID
  • If you have not use Face ID to unlock your iPhone X in 4 hours
  • If you have not unlocked your iPhone using passcode in almost a week

In all such scenarios, users will need to enter the passcode to unlock their iPhone X.

As of now, there is still a lot of confusion regarding Face ID in the mind of consumers especially with regards to its reliability and real-world performance. This is something that will only be solved once the iPhone X makes its way into the hands of consumers and they spend time with the feature. While it is possible that Face ID will fail initially, Apple is bound to improve its performance further with future software updates.