Face ID: What Is This Technology and Is It So Safe?

Face ID: What Is This Technology and Is It So Safe?

Face ID facial recognition technology has replaced Touch ID – there was simply no room for a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone X. But is Face ID really a worthy alternative?

The appearance of the iPhone X was eagerly awaited by Apple fans – and it’s not just because of the huge frameless screen of the new gadget. The manufacturer has equipped the model X with an innovative technology Face ID, which has replaced Touch ID – there was simply no place for the fingerprint sensor on the “Apple” flagship. However, the presentation of the iPhone X reduced the ardor of enthusiasts and gave more reason to be skeptical. An amusing embarrassment that happened to Apple’s Vice President Craig Federighi instantly became known to the world, after which the reliability and security of Face ID was questioned.

In this article we’ll explain what this technology is for and speculate if there’s any reason to fear that one day the iPhone X won’t unlock.


Face ID is a program that can identify a user by their face. The True Depth front-facing camera is responsible for facial recognition. The camera is located on a small “island” in the front, not covered by the display – geeks aptly dubbed it “bangs”. “Bangs” hides a huge number of sensors and electronics.

iPhone X

These sensors are what makes Face ID work. When the user takes the smartphone in his hand, an infrared sensor (flood illuminator) is activated, whose task is to recognize if the screen is a face. If the response from the infrared sensor is positive, the dot projector is activated – a laser projects 30,000 dots onto the face in front of the screen. Finally, the infrared camera reads those dots that are clearly visible and compares them to the 3D image the user originally took. If the technology “recognized” the owner, the processor receives a command: the gadget must be unlocked.

The same system is used to create animoji – emoji capable of copying the user’s facial expressions.

The most important thing for Face ID is to see the 3 elements of the user’s face: the mouth, nose and eyes. If the owner of iPhone X changes his/her hairstyle, grows a beard or a mustache, it won’t put Apple’s technology to shame. Another thing is if the person wears dark glasses, takes his eyes away from the camera, covers them or covers his mouth with a scarf – in these cases, Face ID may be powerless.

Apple has installed a small coprocessor in its flagship, so Face ID will remember your face more and more clearly over time. The longer you use your smartphone, the faster the facial recognition works and the less the accessories like glasses confuse the program.


By using Face ID, you can:

  • Unlock your iPhone.
  • Make payments through Apple Pay.
  • Pay for purchases in the iTunes Store and AppStore.
  • Allow apps and websites to use your username and password.
  • Allow the Safari browser to autofill forms.
  • In short, Face ID covers all the functionality of Touch ID.


Face ID setup should only be approached by carefully stretching your cervical vertebrae. Find the necessary option on your phone by following the path “Settings” – “Face ID and password”.

Once you’re in the menu of the corresponding settings section, proceed as follows:

  • Click on “Face ID Setting” and position your device about 30 cm away from your face. A circular frame will appear on the screen – make sure your face is centered.
  • Slowly perform a circular motion with your head so that the program can form a structural (3D) image. By the way, for those who due to physical limitations can not turn the head, Apple has provided another algorithm – you can activate it through the settings section “Universal Access Settings”.
  • Press “Next” and repeat the circular motion.
  • When a notification appears on the screen that Face ID is set up, click on “Done”.

Here’s a helpful animation like this posted on Apple’s website:

You can only add one face to Face ID on the iPhone X. You can’t set up your smartphone so that anyone in the family can unlock it by face.


Apple claims: the probability of the iPhone X making a mistake when unlocking by face is 1:1,000,000. By comparison, the probability of a Touch ID error was 1:50,000,000. To explain the incredible security of Face ID and to rid users of any doubts about the usefulness of the program, Apple said the following about the technology:

The unique 3D facial image cannot be stolen. It’s stored in the Secure Enclave co-processor memory on the device itself and isn’t sent to Apple’s servers.
Face ID won’t “buy” the photo because infrared dots are projected differently onto the flat picture. In this aspect, Apple has certainly surpassed Samsung, whose Face Unlock technology was easily circumvented with a photo.
Masks and Face ID plaster models can’t fool either. Apple has tested it.
Despite all this, Face ID technology is far from perfect. In particular, it failed the “twin test.”

There is no guarantee that a smartphone cannot be unlocked by using a 3D mask. Modern technology makes it possible to make one from just a photo of a person. From this point of view, Touch ID is even more reliable: Hollywood movies lie – the fingerprint will not react to the finger of the deceased, a severed finger or a prosthetic. For the scanner to work, it needs a surface electrical charge, which only living tissue provides. In the case of Face ID, there is no direct contact – giving crooks room to experiment with the 3D printer.

In addition, Secure Еnclave cannot be called invulnerable. Back in mid-2017, hackers managed to crack the coprocessor and made the decryption key public (as reported by threatpost.com). Apple patched up the hole, but users of “Apple” equipment have already begun to have doubts about how responsible the “Cupertinians” are in ensuring the safety of personal data.


It is important for the iPhone X user to remember that Face ID

Will not be able to recognize a child. For technology, all children under the age of 12 (roughly) look the same.
Doesn’t like sunlight. There is a chance that the True Depth camera will not be able to perform in sunny weather. The user will have to look for shade or at least change the angle of the device to unlock the phone by face.
Doesn’t work in landscape orientation. At least not yet. The iPhone needs to be held vertically.
Will disable if it can not recognize the user’s face 2 times in a row. The owner of the iPhone will have to enter a password.
Not the most dynamic way to unlock a smartphone. Touch ID is much faster – just like any other fingerprint scanner on modern “mobiles”.
Obviously, many of the disadvantages described will be eliminated as the program will be updated and improved. Touch ID, which is now an effective security tool for a smartphone, was mercilessly criticized by users at first.


The 1:1,000,000 ratio that Apple likes to flaunt looks highly questionable. A study organized by the University of Washington shows that even the most powerful of today’s facial recognition systems are 98% effective–that is, they are wrong at least twice per 100 times. The analysis is permanently conducted and the data is constantly updated – perhaps someday a system will appear on the list which is accurate in 99.9999% of cases, but with the current level of technology it looks like utopia.

However, even in its current state Face ID does a pretty good job of protecting the iPhone. Sometimes the program is even too vigilant, which explains the Federiga incident. According to Apple, in the time before the presentation Face ID had to try to identify a huge number of faces, so it decided to insure and ask for a password.

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