iPhone XS versus iPhone X - which phone unlocks faster with Face ID

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2018
The iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max are all packing Apple's second-generation Face ID, an updated version of the biometric authentication system which is supposed to be faster than the version introduced with the iPhone X. Is there actually a noticeable difference between the already-fast and the potentially faster versions in the real world?

Testing Face ID speeds on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS
Testing Face ID speeds on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS

The theory

Face ID uses machine learning algorithms and the Neural Engine built into the iPhone's processor to analyze and recognize scans of the user's face made by the TrueDepth camera system, the array of sensors located in the notch at the top of the screen. In the unlocking process, the iPhone has to make a depth map of the user's face using the sensors, which is then compared with a mathematical representation of the registered user's face stored in the Secure Enclave, a task that can largely be improved just by increasing processing performance.





Along with other processor-related improvements expected from the A12 chip in the 2018 releases, the Neural Engine has been upgraded from a dual-core design to an 8-core version, making it capable of running at 5 trillion operations per second than the 600 billion operations offered by the version in the A11.

By this measure alone, this should make a Face ID check take less time, but Apple has also claimed that the Face ID algorithms in the new phones are faster as well. The only real way to find out is to put last year's iPhone X up against the iPhone XS and to see if there is much of a difference.

The trial

To make the tests as fair as possible, my face was rescanned on both phones under the exact same lighting conditions. While the iPhone X will have updated its stored depth map data over time, it would be best for testing purposes if both devices share as close to identical data as possible.

To determine a winner in each case, footage of the unlocking process was examined frame-by-frame, to see which completed the home screen animation first. For the initial 15-round run, the iPhone XS was fastest 11 times, a tie was declared 4 times, and the iPhone X failed to finish first at all.

Testing different angles for Face ID unlock on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS
Testing different angles for Face ID unlock on the iPhone X versus iPhone XS


While the test revealed the second-generation Face ID is generally faster than the first-generation version, the fact that it had to be checked on a frame-by-frame basis strongly suggests most users won't notice a sudden jump in performance just by looking at it.

The same test was conducted again, but under low light conditions. In this second trial, not only did the iPhone XS win every single time, but in three instances out of seven, it was very noticeable, even without slowing the video down. It seems that darker conditions give the newer models an advantage.

Lastly, it was decided to try and find issues with Face ID just by trying to unlock at weird angles to the face, and in the process discovered a weak spot for the iPhone X while holding it near the user's legs. While the iPhone XS unlocked every single time in this situation, the iPhone X had to be lifted up a bit in order to unlock.

Other than that single situation, both iPhones did equally well for practically all tested angles.

The result

So let's answer the original question: is the second-generation Face ID on the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR faster than the first-generation version used on the iPhone X? Yes, it is, but for the majority of real-world situations, it won't make that much of a difference to most people. There was a bigger improvement in low light, but it's still not that much faster overall.

It seems that Face ID is just as usable as before, and probably just as secure, but only a hair faster.

Further tests are planned for the iPhone XR, which AppleInsider will be putting through its paces soon, but given the similar specifications, it is probably going to be a similar story as for the iPhone XS for Face ID.

Deals on the iPhone XS and XS Max

If you haven't already ordered Apple's iPhone XS or XS Max, wireless carriers are incentivizing the purchase. Want to get your hands on a new device asap? eBay sellers are also shipping units now.

Carrier deals:

  • AT&T Wireless: Buy one iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, get a second $700 off when you add a line.
  • Verizon Wireless: Buy an iPhone XS or XS Max and save up to $300 with a qualifying trade.
  • Sprint: Get the 64GB iPhone XS for half off with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease.
  • T-Mobile: Save up to $390 on the iPhone XS with an eligible iPhone trade.
Keep up with AppleInsider's coverage by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    optikoptik Posts: 25member
    Sorry but this was one of the dumbest tests I’ve seen so far. People are really getting bored 
     With these pointless tests what’s even worse when measuring fractions of a second, one must consider a different approach to just clicking the button or swiping up on the phone  to enable Face ID.
    IMO  The test is flawed at the very least definitely not accurate because it appears as the phone on the left was swiped up before before on the right notice the thumb on the left when the swipe begins each time... fix that then re-upload.
    chasmaylk
  • Reply 2 of 23
    mfrydmfryd Posts: 113member
    The tests compare how the phones compare when working with a fresh face.  This is useful is you start with a fresh each day.

    If you use the same face day in, and day out, the more interesting statistic is how they compare after they have built up their database.  A phone that does better building the database may noticeably outperform the other in normal day to day use.

    sphericchasm
  • Reply 3 of 23
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,470member
    The difference doesn't look like much in the video, but with raise to wake being my normal prelude to using the phone, the XS is almost always unlocked before I've finished swiping--if not before I've even begun to swipe--whereas Face ID was usually a hindrance with the X. The XS also seems to unlock much more reliably. Unlocking occurs so fluidly, I'm often careful not to look at the phone to avoid unintentional unlocks. I also frequently press the sleep/wake button intentionally to make sure the phone is locked before putting it away, e.g. to avoid "pocket calls". While those are downsides, I appreciate the fast unlocking more.
    edited November 2018 lostkiwilollivercornchipredgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
    FGS divert one of the 40 million computations to a portrait/landscape determination based on eye-axis determination.
    After that, go hunting milliseconds for hours and hours - as you want at Apple..
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Interesting that the Xs can unlock at more extreme angles, which is quite useful in real world...something that i found occasionally problematic in my old X.
    SoundJudgmentguscatwlymlolliverbb-15redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    Ever since downloading iOS 12 on my X, Face ID is so fast now it seems pointless trying to figure out what is faster. It's gotten to the point where I've almost forgotten I even have a password on my phone.
    newBelievercornchipmazda 3sSnickersMagoowatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    cpsro said:
    The difference doesn't look like much in the video, but with raise to wake being my normal prelude to using the phone, the XS is almost always unlocked before I've finished swiping--if not before I've even begun to swipe--whereas Face ID was usually a hindrance with the X. The XS also seems to unlock much more reliably. Unlocking occurs so fluidly, I'm often careful not to look at the phone to avoid unintentional unlocks. I also frequently press the sleep/wake button intentionally to make sure the phone is locked before putting it away, e.g. to avoid "pocket calls". While those are downsides, I appreciate the fast unlocking more.
    To be honest, since downloading iOS 12 Face ID now pretty much works that way for me on my X. I'm guessing it's still better on the XS and XR, but even on my X Face ID is substantially better now (and I always loved it).
    newBelieverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,133member
    Face ID works really well, but if I had the option I’d personally go back to Touch ID.

    For example when cooking I have the phone sat on the surface. With Touch ID I’d just tap my finger on the home button and I’m in, but with my XS Max I’ve got to pick it up.

    In the morning I need to slightly sit up for Face ID as opposed to just touching the home button whilst my head is half buried in the pillow.

    First world problems, I get it, but I do miss Touch ID.
    edited November 2018 cornchipmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    aegeanaegean Posts: 114member
    It is pretty obvious that Face ID will faster on XS. And next year ones will even be faster than XS. But I have no complaints from my X. ;-)
    edited November 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,968member
    How about comparison of pictures taken in different light condition including portrait mode between iPhone X/Xs vs XR ?
  • Reply 11 of 23
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,470member
    saarek said:
    For example when cooking I have the phone sat on the surface. With Touch ID I’d just tap my finger on the home button and I’m in, but with my XS Max I’ve got to pick it up.
    You do realize you can wake the phone by touching with just about any body part, including nose or a knuckle? Then swipe up with any body part. No need to pick it up. And if you keep looking at your phone (or new iPad), the display doesn't go to sleep.
    edited November 2018 jbdragonredgeminipaking editor the grate
  • Reply 12 of 23
    Feels twice as fast and precdictable on my phones!
  • Reply 13 of 23
    When will AppleInsider deal with the safety issue of Face ID?  Does everyone really believe that constant facial scanning with a low power laser, over months and years, is perfectly safe for vision?   It's never been done before.  The eye's retina and other structures are very sensitive to light.  Damage to the eye is not "all or nothing".  Constant exposure to a low level laser may cause cumulative damage.  I've seen zero discusions about the safety of Face ID technology.  Is the safety issue of no interest to anyone?  Really?
  • Reply 14 of 23
    saniat said:
    When will AppleInsider deal with the safety issue of Face ID?  Does everyone really believe that constant facial scanning with a low power laser, over months and years, is perfectly safe for vision?   It's never been done before.  The eye's retina and other structures are very sensitive to light.  Damage to the eye is not "all or nothing".  Constant exposure to a low level laser may cause cumulative damage.  I've seen zero discusions about the safety of Face ID technology.  Is the safety issue of no interest to anyone?  Really?
    I predict the answer is never, because there are no low-powered lasers in use, just projecting infrared.  That's not what lasers do, and that's not focused like a laser (look up what a laser actually is...) and infrared is... heat radiation.  It's like looking into a little bit of heat.
    jbdragonMadtigerredgeminipaStrangeDaysking editor the grate
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Face ID seems to work well with hats and glasses, I've not had a chance to test with a scarf yet (I don't wear one often, it doesn't get that cold around here on average).  Touch ID tended to be problematic when I went climbing, in that chalk dust or just sweat resulted in it refusing to recognize my print.

    Now, Face ID seems to work just fine regardless of how hard you're sweating, night/day, I've not tested with a bit of food on my face, so that might be an interesting silly test to perform.

    There is one thing Apple clearly did not intend it to work with, though: CPAP masks!  It doesn't work with a full face mask, even one that's almost entirely transparent.  I suppose this gives a slight amount of security from kids trying to use their parent's Face ID when they're not fully awake (they might open their eyes but not be all there) if they use CPAP ;)
    randominternetpersonMadtiger
  • Reply 16 of 23
    saniat said:
    When will AppleInsider deal with the safety issue of Face ID?  Does everyone really believe that constant facial scanning with a low power laser, over months and years, is perfectly safe for vision?   It's never been done before.  The eye's retina and other structures are very sensitive to light.  Damage to the eye is not "all or nothing".  Constant exposure to a low level laser may cause cumulative damage.  I've seen zero discusions about the safety of Face ID technology.  Is the safety issue of no interest to anyone?  Really?
    Think of the children!  And what about those millions of LEDs shooting their beams of badness at your eyes as you watch Netflix!
    radarthekatStrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 23
    colinngcolinng Posts: 112member
    saniat said:
    When will AppleInsider deal with the safety issue of Face ID?  Does everyone really believe that constant facial scanning with a low power laser, over months and years, is perfectly safe for vision?   It's never been done before.  The eye's retina and other structures are very sensitive to light.  Damage to the eye is not "all or nothing".  Constant exposure to a low level laser may cause cumulative damage.  I've seen zero discusions about the safety of Face ID technology.  Is the safety issue of no interest to anyone?  Really?
    I predict the answer is never, because there are no low-powered lasers in use, just projecting infrared.  That's not what lasers do, and that's not focused like a laser (look up what a laser actually is...) and infrared is... heat radiation.  It's like looking into a little bit of heat.
    Whoa! While I had not thought to worry about the Dot Projector - but saying it is not a laser - is completely false. It IS a laser. 

    https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-is-the-dot-projector-used-in-the-facial-recognition-system-of-iPhone-X
    Apple’s new TrueDepth camera in iPhone X uses a dot projector to achieve its magic and a new report claims that US-based laser diode supplier Lumentum is now the only company that has won orders from the Cupertino giant for that crucial part.
    According to a recent DigiTimes report, Lumentum has subcontracted Taiwan’s WinSemiconductors to manufacture the vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) component that the TrueDepth camera’s dot projector uses for Face ID and to sense depth.

    It is probably not powerful enough to do damage, and probably it was smart to give it an innocent name like "Dot Projector" instead of mentioning "laser" because it is easier to give it a good name than to show a graph of frequency and power at which retinal damage occurs. 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety

    File:IEC60825_MPE_J_s.png

    edited November 2018
  • Reply 18 of 23
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,133member
    cpsro said:
    saarek said:
    For example when cooking I have the phone sat on the surface. With Touch ID I’d just tap my finger on the home button and I’m in, but with my XS Max I’ve got to pick it up.
    You do realize you can wake the phone by touching with just about any body part, including nose or a knuckle? Then swipe up with any body part. No need to pick it up. And if you keep looking at your phone (or new iPad), the display doesn't go to sleep.
    I do realise that, but I have to lean right over the surface for it to get a clear shot of my face. 

    For that scenario Touch ID was better for me.
  • Reply 19 of 23
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,899member
    Face ID seems to work well with hats and glasses, I've not had a chance to test with a scarf yet (I don't wear one often, it doesn't get that cold around here on average).  Touch ID tended to be problematic when I went climbing, in that chalk dust or just sweat resulted in it refusing to recognize my print.

    Now, Face ID seems to work just fine regardless of how hard you're sweating, night/day, I've not tested with a bit of food on my face, so that might be an interesting silly test to perform.

    There is one thing Apple clearly did not intend it to work with, though: CPAP masks!  It doesn't work with a full face mask, even one that's almost entirely transparent.  I suppose this gives a slight amount of security from kids trying to use their parent's Face ID when they're not fully awake (they might open their eyes but not be all there) if they use CPAP ;)
    One would think that a Face ID system would need to see the face.
    Hats generally don't cover the face. Ski masks would be a problem. Won't work with Halloween masks either.
    I have one pair of sunglasses that work fine and another where I need to lift them up. Those must just be a little darker or reflective and the phone does not see my eyes through the glasses. If I turned off that security measure, it would work fine.

    edited November 2018
  • Reply 20 of 23
    saniat said:
    When will AppleInsider deal with the safety issue of Face ID?  Does everyone really believe that constant facial scanning with a low power laser, over months and years, is perfectly safe for vision?   It's never been done before.  The eye's retina and other structures are very sensitive to light.  Damage to the eye is not "all or nothing".  Constant exposure to a low level laser may cause cumulative damage.  I've seen zero discusions about the safety of Face ID technology.  Is the safety issue of no interest to anyone?  Really?
    Do you have data to suggest it's dangerous and that Apple has overlooked this?
    Madtiger
Sign In or Register to comment.