We are now one year on since the introduction of the 2017 Apple iPhone X and its groundbreaking new security measure and iPhone unlocking system:Face ID. Earlier this month Apple released the successors to the X, with the Xs, Xs Max and Xr. And indeed all of those phones also ‘only’ have Face ID, Touch ID is no more. Let me take you on a journey that will open your eyes and possibly your iPhone, while we take a look at the technology (without the nerdy crap) behind Apple’s Face ID.
Is it really that safe? Does it work reliably? What is the catch? Is global warming a coax? Did we really land on the moon? Let me answer those questions for you. Well, maybe some.
Over the past year there has been a lot of doubt and controversy surrounding Apple’s Face ID. I have been playing around with it and now have gotten my hands on the 2nd generation of Face ID built into the new iPhone Xs. So what does it do.
With a simple glance, Face ID securely unlocks your iPhone X or later.
Furthermore you can use it to authorise purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, and payments with Apple Pay. Additionally developers can now use it in their third party apps making Face ID useful when logging into Paypal or a password manager for example.
There is a lot of sophisticated and advanced technology at work here which I do not care too much for as long as it works. So on the front of the phone you have something Apple calls the TrueDepth camera which according to Apple: “captures accurate face data by projecting and analysing over 30,000 invisible dots to create a depth map of your face and also captures an infrared image of your face. A portion of the A11 and A12 Bionic chip’s neural engine — protected within the Secure Enclave — transforms the depth map and infrared image into a mathematical representation and compares that representation to the enrolled facial data.”
Bla bla bla, I get it if you got lost after the 30.000 invisible dots part there. What is more important and interesting to remember is the following.
Face ID automatically adapts to changes in your looks, such as looking like Marilyn Manson (i.e. wearing makeup) or going all hipster on society (growing facial hair). Now should you decide to undertake a more significant change in your appearance, like shaving off your full beard (because going down on your girl leaves way too much moisture in your beard), then Face ID actually confirms your identity by using your passcode before it updates your face data. Apple claims that: “Face ID is designed to work with hats, scarves, glasses, contact lenses, and many sunglasses. Furthermore, it’s designed to work indoors, outdoors, and even in total darkness.”
Before we get to the practical experience let us put some doubts and concerns to rest with regards to security. Apple told the world that: “the probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X or later and unlock it using Face ID is approximately1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID).
As an additional layer of protection, Face ID allows just five unsuccessful match attempts before entering your passcode is necessary. So you are a twin? Or under the age of 13? Well for those situations Apple says: “the statistical probability is different for twins and siblings that look like you and among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed.”
I have actually read about multiple cases where Face ID worked with twins, even identical twins. But almost a few that did not. Forbes writer Tony Bradley wrote the following on the twins testing topic: “Face ID is 99,997% secure. What we’ve learned from these tests is that it is, in fact, possible that some identical twins can fool Face ID and gain access to the iPhone X. What we know from the twins data, is that this is only an issue for 0.35 percent of the world—at most. The fact that the Mashable and Business Insider twin tests got different results suggests that only a certain subset of identical twins can bypass Face ID, which could significantly lower that number.”
It recognises if your eyes are open and looking towards your iPhone. So tough luck on your jealous and paranoid girlfriend trying to gain access to your iPhone while you are sleeping. Who are Mandy and Tina? She will never know….muhahahaha.
Adding an additional face
As of iOS12 (September 2018) you can now add a second Face ID profile. This can be your own face (this time with glasses on) or can even be your partner’s face so they can also unlock your phone with ease (and find out who Mandy and Tina are).
This was a major quirk and piece of criticism last year when Face ID was launched. Nicely done Apple, you listened for once!
Testing it out – What can go wrong?
Now I am sure many of you will (and rightly so) mention the situations of darkness, laying down, holding your phone upside down or wearing sunglasses. All valid points, which after receiving my new iPhone Xs last Friday I immediately put to the test. Something that really surprised me was that Face ID works like a charm in almost complete darkness. While in bed I was able to unlock my phone, without any additional delay, it worked just as fast as in daylight. Astonishing!
What then really made me jizz a little in my pants was the fact that I managed to successfully unlock the phone in one try while laying down on my side and holding the phone sidewards as well. Not just once, but every single time for a few nights now. Thanks to that amazing infrared camera!
Also sunglasses were not a problem at all, I even tried to fool Face ID by wearing my wife’s bigger, more stupendous diva glasses. But apparently even my Kim Kardashianess and sunglasses could not break Face ID.
In the case that you find yourself having difficulty unlocking Face ID with your face, maybe consider that Face ID does not like your face, you maybe look like Gollum or having your hair down like the girl from the movie The Ring is not helping.
But what about Touch ID?
I understand not all of you follow the tech news as I do (cough…nerd). So I can definitely feel your confusion towards Apple as to why Touch ID (the fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the older iPhone’s) was ever removed?!
The main reason is more display size.
The previous iPhone 8 has a display size of 4.7 inches and the 8 Plus has 5.5 inches. However the 8 plus is a bloody big phone which, unless you are Michael Jordan or E.T. is too big to handle for one handed use. Amazingly though with the 2017 iPhone X model, Apple managed to create a 5.8 inch screen at the size of an iPhone 8, albeit by removing Touch ID!! (if you want to read more about the size differences then check out my Apple Event update article HERE)
Now as far as I am concerned Touch ID has its flaws and definitely is not perfect. Especially wet, sticky, dirty, greasy fingers would block every attempt of unlocking with Touch ID. My wife for a very long time thought she has a faulty Touch ID button, but after she upgraded to the iPhone 7 from the iPhone 6 (also with Touch ID) she realised it was her almost naturally greasy fingers that were the culprit.
Touch ID nonetheless was and still is a great unlocking system which I still use with great pleasure on my iPad Pro. However the additional display size, dimension changes and design improvements on the iPhone X and the newer models have made me forget about Touch ID completely.
Apple, you really got me hooked on Face ID, thank you!
P.S. Beating Face ID
Some folks over at Wired.com decided to take a serious crack at Face ID and at cracking it. They failed, it is however a very interesting read should you still be uncertain about Face ID. Check it out HERE.