Face ID: Everything you need to know about Apple’s facial recognition

This article is about Face ID. Here you will find everything in detail you need to know about Apple's facial recognition on iPhone and iPads.
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Since the iPhone X, the iPhone has been equipped with Face ID, Apple’s own facial recognition. In this article you will find the complete Face ID explanation: how it works, whether it also works with apps and whether it is safe.

Face ID is the name for the face, which Apple introduced with the iPhone X . Face recognition lets you unlock your iPhone, so you don’t have to enter a passcode. It is the successor to Touch ID , Apple’s fingerprint scanner. In this article you can read the complete Face ID explanation, what you can do with it, with which apps it works and how safe it is.

Face ID explanation: facial recognition for iPhone and iPad

Face ID is Apple’s security technology that is incorporated in the iPhone X , iPhone XS and iPad Pro 2018, among others . Face recognition scans your face, so you can unlock your device by looking at it. The facial recognition uses the TrueDepth camera at the top of the screen. This scans millions of dots on your face and then neural networks process all data.

The TrueDepth camera makes a 3D scan of your face. This contains a total of eight parts:

  • Infrared camera
  • Infrared illuminator
  • Proximity sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • 7-megapixel camera (12-megapixel on iPhone 11 series)
  • Grid projector

The grid projector scans your face, while the other sensors are used to recognize the depth. All in all, all these sensors are used to make a successful scan of your face so that you can quickly unlock your iPhone. The sensors also have a wide viewing angle, so you don’t necessarily have to hold the iPhone right in front of your face.

Which devices support it?

Apple announced Face ID during the launch of the iPhone X in September 2017. Since then, it has been a standard part of every new iPhone released since then. You can also find facial recognition in the iPad Pro since 2018 .

These are iPhones with Face ID:

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

There are also iPads with Face ID:

  • iPad Pro 2018 11-inch
  • iPad Pro 2018 12.9-inch

Most other iPhones and iPads have Touch ID . Most devices from before 2013 only have a regular home button, where you use an access code to unlock it.

Is facial recognition safe with Face ID?

As with any biometric measurement, there is always a chance that someone else in the world can unlock your iPhone. However, the chances of this being the case with Face ID are considerably less than with Touch ID. In the case of Touch ID, that chance is 1: 50,000, while that chance with facial recognition is much lower, namely one in a million. This is a factor of 20 smaller. Facial recognition is therefore theoretically safer than a fingerprint scanner, although there have been cases of people who could fool the system with twins or masks.

All data from your scanned face is stored in the Secure Enclave , a separate part in the chip of the iPhone. Apple cannot access this data, because everything is stored locally and with encryption. The same was also the case with Touch ID. So it is not the case that other companies get their hands on your facial features.

Does this facility also work with photos? And in the dark?

Because Face ID also recognizes depth, you cannot fool security with photos. The sensors see whether it is a real person or whether only a flat image is shown. The device will only be unlocked if you are in the picture yourself. Apple has even had masks recreated from real people. These also don’t work with the face recognition on the iPhone, so you don’t have to worry about someone copying your face or misusing a photo of you.

In addition, the infrared sensors ensure that Face ID also works in the dark. The infrared camera and the infrared illuminator work closely together, so you don’t have to turn on the light to use face recognition. So you do not have to worry that you cannot use facial recognition in the bedroom.

Do I have to do something special to make Face ID pass, like blink?

What’s also important is that you can set the facial recognition in such a way that it requires you to pay attention to the screen. As a result, facial recognition only works when you are actually looking at the screen, because you must have your eyes open. For example, an extra action is also required to unlock. Besides scanning your face, you also have to swipe up the screen to unlock the iPhone. So someone cannot just hold your iPhone in front of your face and unlock the device.

Does it also work with glasses? A hat? How about a beard?

Once you scan your face for Face ID, more than 30,000 points of your face are captured. In addition, Apple has tested facial recognition in all kinds of circumstances, so it works even if you wear glasses, a hat, a scarf or decide to let your beard grow. By the way, facial recognition also works with most sunglasses . If you decide to go for a radically different look or appearance, you can of course always reset the facial recognition.

What to do in the event of theft?
For this horror scenario, Apple has come up with the attention function . You have to stare at your iPhone to unlock it. If someone else has taken your device and tries to unlock it by holding it in front of your face, it is best to close your eyes. The attention function is enabled by default.

Can I also quickly turn off Face ID?

Another measure Apple has taken to protect you is to quickly disable Face ID . If someone under threat wants to take away your iPhone, you can temporarily disable facial recognition by briefly pressing the buttons on either side of the device. If you have to deal with the police or other authorities, you can quickly turn off facial recognition by pressing the buttons. You can also prevent unwanted unlocking by not looking straight into the camera. In addition to facial recognition, this also works with Touch ID.

So if you’re forced to use Face ID to unlock your iPhone, but didn’t have a chance to turn it off quickly, you can simply keep your eyes closed. As a result, your face will not be scanned successfully, which will automatically disable facial recognition after two attempts.

Does Face ID work with multiple people?

Unlike Touch ID, you can only set one face for Face ID. With Touch ID you can register up to five fingers, for example from your other hand or from a person you trust. This is not possible with facial recognition, because you can officially register only one face. On the one hand, this ensures that no one else can unlock your iPhone unless he or she knows your passcode. On the other hand, this can be annoying because, for example, your partner has to use your access code every time. There is a detour, because you can set an alternative appearance. This can also be your partner’s face.

When does Face ID not work?

Apple has clarified when Face ID is not working. In that case you have to fall back on the pin code to gain access to your device. It concerns these situations:

  • The iPhone was turned on or restarted for the first time.
  • The iPhone has not been unlocked for more than 48 hours.
  • You have not used facial recognition for four hours or have not used the access code for 6.5 days or more.
  • You have locked the device remotely.
  • Face ID failed to recognize your face after 5 tries.
  • You have activated the SOS function.
  • Your battery is less than 10% charged.

Does Face ID on the iPad also work horizontally?

Face ID on the iPhone only works if you hold the device directly in front of your face. If you hold the iPhone in landscape mode, the sensor cannot scan your face. This is not the case on the iPad. So it doesn’t matter how you hold the iPad. Face recognition will then work both horizontally and vertically, but make sure you don’t cover the camera. The iPad Pro will automatically indicate if it cannot see your face because, for example, your hand is in front of the camera.

Does Face ID also work with apps, such as from my bank?

Face ID is not only for unlocking your iPhone, but it also works with apps. In principle, all apps that work with Touch ID also work with facial recognition. That means that your banking app or password app that works on an iPhone with the fingerprint scanner will work on an iPhone with facial recognition. So you don’t have to suddenly switch back to, for example, the mobile access code. Sometimes there are exceptions, although the vast majority of apps have already been updated to support facial recognition.

So all Touch ID apps automatically work with it too?

Developers don’t need to customize their apps with Touch ID to support Face ID. The facial recognition works in many ways the same as Touch ID. All apps that you have secured with your fingerprint will therefore work effortlessly with your face, for example the aforementioned banking apps and password managers.

Face ID and Apple Pay

In addition to Face ID for apps, you can also use face recognition for Apple Pay . To do that, you first have to press the side button twice, look at your iPhone and then hold it at the payment terminal.