iPhone X's Face ID reviewed, six months later

Posted:
in iOS edited August 2020
A major shift in biometric security that enabled Apple to add an edge-to-edge display to the iPhone X, the introduction of Face ID as a replacement for Touch ID was a fundamental change in how users interact with their devices. Six months down the line, Face ID continues to prove the security switch was worth doing.





Almost six months ago, Apple's iPhone X made its way into the hands of consumers, and with it, came the groundbreaking TrueDepth camera system. As everyone knows, it's built into the iPhone X's controversial notch, which by way, hasn't stopped the iPhone X from being the best-selling smartphone so far in 2018.

TrueDepth introduced a few new features, including Selfie Portraits and Animoji, but the one that's the most important of all is Face ID. After using it daily on an iPhone X for 6 months, and with the potential for more Apple devices to support the biometric security feature as well as more features possibly being announced at WWDC on June 4th, it's worth taking a moment to look at how Face ID has fared in its time since launch.




From the very first day we got our hands on the iPhone X and started trying out Face ID, it amazed us. We spent a few hours in downtown Spokane, testing and filming for our Ultimate Face ID Test video. Every single feature, including Apple Pay, attention awareness, and unlocking in the dark, worked perfectly.

Six months later, it works just as well as it did on launch day, possibly even better. The iPhone X seems to consistently unlock faster than it did before, and no one else has been able to unlock my iPhone X since I started using it.

Certainly, the older Touch ID works faster than Face ID, but it's not as reliable. If your hands are really dirty, wet, or you're wearing gloves, Touch ID wouldn't work properly, if at all, while Face ID obviously has no trouble with any of those situations.

The only real time that Face ID won't work is when the face is too obscured, such as while wearing most motorcycle helmets.

My all-time favorite feature is that notifications on the lock screen are completely private until the iPhone X verifies that it's you. On any other iPhone, people can read your text and email previews with the tap of a button.

Attention Awareness


Another one of my favorite features is Attention Awareness. I absolutely hated it when I'd be reading an article on any of my older iPhones and the screen would suddenly dim after a period of time, forcing me to have to constantly tap the screen to keep it from dimming.

On the iPhone X, it stays awake as long as I'm looking at it, while also lowering the sound of any and all alerts.

The biggest reason why the Face ID experience has improved is that there are so many third-party apps that support Face ID login, like my bank app, Dropbox and PayPal. It is the same with Safari Autofill, as I pretty much never have to type in login credentials anymore on most websites I visit.

However, there are some downsides that I've noticed since using it instead of Touch ID.

First of all, you can only register one face at a time, meaning that while I can unlock it with a glance, my wife is forced to enter the passcode. That may be a plus for some people, but it's annoying for us.

Also, Face ID only works when the phone matches your faces orientation. If you're laying down, or you're holding the phone in landscape mode, Face ID won't work until you rotate it.

I myself don't have a twin, so I obviously haven't had any trouble with anyone being able to unlock my iPhone X.

As for the other TrueDepth camera features, I've gotten to really like Selfie Portrait mode, and I pretty much use it every single time over regular selfies. As for selfie portrait lighting, it's more of a gimmick to me, and I really only like the Studio Light mode which slightly brightens the subject.

Selfie Portrait Mode


Animoji is more of a gimmick for communication, and I can't recall using it more than a handful of times since I got the iPhone. While it has been very popular on social media for making Animoji Karaoke videos, I've only really used it for our Animoji vs AR Emoji comparison video.

Concerning which Apple devices we can expect to come equipped with Face ID, we'd have to guess it will be practically anything with a screen. We're not sure how long it will take for some devices, like the iMac, but thanks to Windows Hello being implemented in a bunch of new Windows notebooks, we're sure to see it on MacBooks and iMacs within a year or two.

We can also expect every single new iPhone that's being announced this September to come equipped with Face ID, unless they decide to leave a budget Touch ID-packing model for another year. The iPad Pro range has also been rumored to gain Face ID, which will allow Apple to reduce weight and bezels even further than before, but it's more likely Apple will stick with ProMotion LCD displays this year.

As for new Face ID features we're expecting to be announced at WWDC, we think there will be support for using it in a horizontal orientation, as well as making it work for multiple users.

Apple was granted a patent that would allow the scanning of veins in a user's face. If Apple combined this technology with the current Face ID system, it would make it pretty much impossible for anyone to unlock your iPhone X since vein patterns vary from person to person, even in the case of identical twins, and would make it next to impossible to produce a Face ID-defeating mask.

Apple regularly applies for patents that don't always appear in consumer products, so we're not sure if we'll see this feature coming in the near future, if at all.

We also expect Apple to continue working on more accurate depth perception on both the rear-facing and TrueDepth cameras for Portrait photos, because it does currently have some issues with the cutoff. Concerning that, we're also hoping to see more Portrait Lighting modes, or maybe even lighting adjustment sliders.

Since Touch ID was updated to a 2nd generation version, which greatly increased unlock speeds, we can expect Apple to do everything they can quicken the Face ID unlocking process. I myself, just want Apple to give us the option to go straight to the home screen without having to swipe up to unlock.

Animoji


Lastly, what else could Apple come up with that takes advantage of the TrueDepth camera technology?

First of all, since Animoji works so well, we can expect Apple to come out with some sort of FaceKit at some point, allowing developers to easily create their own facial animations to implement into their apps and games. Some apps already create digital masks, such as SnapChat, so expanding the feature would be extremely useful for imaging and social apps.

If and when TrueDepth comes to MacBooks and iMacs, Apple could easily implement a green-screen feature, allowing users to replace their messy dorm rooms with any background they wish for video calls.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    So frustrating that after a false read (I'm often looking away at my phone when it's doing the initial read, either I don't orient it in time or I'm multitasking) it often defaults to the pin entry (I can't seem to pick up the pattern, maybe after a period of time it prompts the pin code instead of letting you try to swipe up again), and there's no way to re-scan unless you first cancel the pin, then swipe up again. When the pin screen is in place, touching the lock doesn't prompt another read, and swiping up doesn't trigger a read. Incredibly frustrating for something I do a hundred times a day. Anybody else experiencing this same annoyance? Either way, it's not a problem with FaceID, which seems to work great, but a problem with the UI implementation.
    supadav03[Deleted User]superklotongutengel
  • Reply 2 of 45
    As amazing as the technology is, I really am not a huge fan of Face ID. I find it to be infuriatingly temperamental. In my experience, I have to keep it a fairly consistent distance with a neutral expression. Slight angles won’t work, nor will having food in my mouth. This might not sound like much, but given the amount of times I unlock my phone daily, the frustration really builds. Sometimes it just plain doesn’t work. Out of necessity and speed I enter passcode more times that I care for. I’m not sure I would go back to Touch ID, but I think there are considerable improvements necessary to the everyday functionality of Face ID. 
    supadav03[Deleted User]superkloton
  • Reply 3 of 45
    I absolutely love FaceID. Can't stand my iPad where I have to hold a finger on it. If FaceID initially fails I just keep looking at it and it then unlocks. Will never go back.

    I just want Apple to make the stupid swipe bar on iPhone X optional. So annoying.
    mike1gilly017
  • Reply 4 of 45
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member
    I was a bit peeved at first w slowness etc. too. Then I switched the default settings for Face ID and I’m much happier. You can speed it up by going to Settings/General/Accessibility/Face ID and Authentication
  • Reply 5 of 45
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,407moderator
    Excellent video by the way.  You guys are crisp and lucid in all your videos.  A lot of information is presented without belaboring any points.  Well done. 
    jony0willcropointlostkiwi
  • Reply 6 of 45
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 404member
    So frustrating that after a false read ... it often defaults to the pin entry ... Incredibly frustrating for something I do a hundred times a day. Anybody else experiencing this same annoyance?
    You could try to get in the habit of having your face ready for the scan. It’s less annoying than what you’re saying you have to do because of scan errors due to your ‘multitasking’. I’ve had scan errors if my cheeks have food in them or if I’m chewing but I fund it funny sometimes to have to reposition food in my mouth knowing I’ll need to unlock my phone.

    Despite the occasional failures I find FaceID to be flexible enough. The only things I wish would be horizontal scanning and a control centre item for enabling/disabling the swipe up to unlock gesture.
  • Reply 7 of 45
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 404member
    As amazing as the technology is, I really am not a huge fan of Face ID. I find it to be infuriatingly temperamental. In my experience, I have to keep it a fairly consistent distance with a neutral expression. Slight angles won’t work, nor will having food in my mouth...
    I have no issues with distance (mine will unlock between 9” and 30+”) and I also rarely have issues with angles, even laying on a table. Mine does require a semi-neutral expression but that’s not exactly a noteworthy bother given I only need to hold it for 1/2 second. A mouthful of food is the time it most predictably fails but I have learned to accommodate.
  • Reply 8 of 45
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,040member
    So frustrating that after a false read (I'm often looking away at my phone when it's doing the initial read, either I don't orient it in time or I'm multitasking) it often defaults to the pin entry (I can't seem to pick up the pattern, maybe after a period of time it prompts the pin code instead of letting you try to swipe up again), and there's no way to re-scan unless you first cancel the pin, then swipe up again. When the pin screen is in place, touching the lock doesn't prompt another read, and swiping up doesn't trigger a read. Incredibly frustrating for something I do a hundred times a day. Anybody else experiencing this same annoyance? Either way, it's not a problem with FaceID, which seems to work great, but a problem with the UI implementation.
    I highly recommend you to go for iPhone 8! 
  • Reply 9 of 45
    Funny how food is getting mentioned. I was going to say that I've gotten it to work while I've been eating, often when I have a fork in my mouth. Sad but true. :)
  • Reply 10 of 45
    supadav03supadav03 Posts: 503member
    Face ID is ok. Don’t love it, don’t hate it. I’m sure version 2.0 is on the way and it will bring performance improvements like we saw with Touch ID 2.0. Only thing I can say without question is, I use my 6 digit PIN at least 3X as often as I did with Touch ID but I still don’t think I’d go back. 
  • Reply 11 of 45
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,831member
    Yes! iChat-style video backgrounds are coming back!
  • Reply 12 of 45
    In my experience, I have to keep it a fairly consistent distance with a neutral expression. Slight angles won’t work, nor will having food in my mouth.
    It sounds like you're hitting "cancel" and re-trying when Face ID fails instead of entering your passcode. This prevents Face ID from learning. I had a lot of failures when I first got my X but the success rate steadily improved over time as it gathered more data. Now I can make crazy expressions and have it pretty far to the side.
    superklotonlostkiwi
  • Reply 13 of 45
    - Does not work in landscape mode
    - Unsafe when mounted in the car and gets locked.
    - confusing swipe gestures instead of ‘tap Touch ID button for home screen’ between landscape and portrait. 
    - fails way more often and is quite slow compared to Touch ID.
    - Accidental app exits from vertical swipe gestures that wasn’t applicable before.
    - Touch ID felt more natural and smooth when used with Apple Pay.
    - Touch ID in general was often ‘hidden’ as notifications were skipped when your finger was resting over the button. Now each face recognition is a slow animation telling me it needs to recognize me, a much more intrusive, in-your-face (no pun intended) flow. 

    I have the X for over 5 months now and my personal wish is that Touch ID comes back, perhaps hidden in the screen itself, complementing Face ID. 
    I’m not a fan of it at all but I see it’s value as part of multiple recognition sensoring. 

    edited May 2018 superkloton
  • Reply 14 of 45
    Folio said:
    I was a bit peeved at first w slowness etc. too. Then I switched the default settings for Face ID and I’m much happier. You can speed it up by going to Settings/General/Accessibility/Face ID and Authentication
    What are your settings?
  • Reply 15 of 45
    fallenjt said:
    So frustrating that after a false read (I'm often looking away at my phone when it's doing the initial read, either I don't orient it in time or I'm multitasking) it often defaults to the pin entry (I can't seem to pick up the pattern, maybe after a period of time it prompts the pin code instead of letting you try to swipe up again), and there's no way to re-scan unless you first cancel the pin, then swipe up again. When the pin screen is in place, touching the lock doesn't prompt another read, and swiping up doesn't trigger a read. Incredibly frustrating for something I do a hundred times a day. Anybody else experiencing this same annoyance? Either way, it's not a problem with FaceID, which seems to work great, but a problem with the UI implementation.
    I highly recommend you to go for iPhone 8! 
    Bit of a lame, snarky answer. Nobody who just spend close to $1000 will purchase an 8. He’s just describing his experience.
    It’s also evident Apple’s focus is FaceID, so his comment is future forward looking, assuming the 8’s fingerprint recognition will phase out. 
    superklotonsupadav03retrogustopatchythepirate
  • Reply 16 of 45
    I'm curious if anyone else is experiencing this but my phone can never recognize me if I'm wearing sunglasses, which I do often, so what I find myself having to do is use my other hand to lift my sunglasses off my face, at which point it recognizes me. If my other hand is unavailable, I just let it fail and ask for the passcode. I also type in the passcode way more often than I did when I had TouchID.
    superkloton
  • Reply 17 of 45
    The one option I wish Apple would add is to automatically "swipe up" if I have no notifications.  Very often I've read my notifications and just want to unlock my iPhone X and get going.  Why should I have to "swipe up" once the phone is unlocked?  If there are notifications, I want to read those.  But if I don't have any, it would be great if the phone could save me from doing that swipe (then it really could be used with only one hand).  Just a thought...
    retrogusto
  • Reply 18 of 45
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,959member
    I'm curious if anyone else is experiencing this but my phone can never recognize me if I'm wearing sunglasses, which I do often, so what I find myself having to do is use my other hand to lift my sunglasses off my face, at which point it recognizes me. If my other hand is unavailable, I just let it fail and ask for the passcode. I also type in the passcode way more often than I did when I had TouchID.
    This was touched on at release. It should work with most sunglasses but not all, especially if they are very dark.
  • Reply 19 of 45
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,959member
    An excellent revisit!

    We are halfway into the release, so from now on we should be getting a much clearer idea of real world effectiveness. It seems to be more than good enough for the majority of people from a technical perspective. Perhaps very slightly less from a personal perspective.

    Some things will improve, I am sure:

    - the size of the array will get smaller
    - speed
    - orientation uses
    - multi users option

    More options will be added (these have already been announced by competitors) so I think they are a given:

    - small object 3D modelling
    - background removal
    - sub-millimeter precision

    It could be years before the entire range has it and the 6,7 and 8 series are phased out and it will improve in that time but I hope things move on from one biometric option. Choice would be nice especially as some people prefer one option over another.

    That choice (including only showing notifications to the registered user, attention awareness etc) was available from competitors long before the iPhone X came out so it would be nice if Apple provided them via an upgrade on the 7 and 8 series phones as convenience options.

    Having the screen turn off while you aren't looking at it or not turning off while you are looking at it are entirely possible.


    mike1
  • Reply 20 of 45
    YupaYupa Posts: 6unconfirmed, member
    if face id didn't recognize you because the phone was not enough oriented toward you : just lean it a little away from you and then back in front of you, it will try immediately to watch your face again.
    StrangeDays
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