Apple's New Face ID Biometric System Works in the Dark and When Your Face is Obscured by Hats and Beards

In the new iPhone X, Face ID, a facial recognition system, replaces the Touch ID fingerprint sensor we've grown accustomed to since it was introduced in the iPhone 5s.

Because Face ID is a new biometric system, there are a lot of questions about its accuracy and how it will work in various conditions, all of which Apple has answered both in the keynote and on its website.

faceidstats

How Face ID Scans Your Face

Face ID is enabled through a TrueDepth front-facing camera on the iPhone X, which has multiple components. A Dot Projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to map its structure.

iphonextruedepthcamera
The dot map is then read by an infrared camera and the structure of your face is relayed to the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X and transformed into a mathematical model. The A11 chip then compares your facial structure to the facial scan stored in the iPhone X during the setup process.

iphonexdotcounter
As with Touch ID, if there is a match between the two face scans, the iPhone X will unlock. From there, you can swipe upwards to get to the Home screen.

Face ID in the Dark

Face ID uses infrared to scan your face, so it works in low lighting conditions and in the dark. The TrueDepth camera also has what Apple calls a "Flood Illuminator," aka an infrared light that illuminates your face in the dark so the dot map and the infrared camera can do their jobs.

Fooling Face ID

First of all, Face ID can't be fooled by a photo because it takes a 3D facial scan to unlock a device. Face ID is also "attention aware," a feature Apple implemented for extra security.

Face ID will only unlock your device when you look in the direction of the iPhone X with your eyes open, meaning Face ID only works when there's a live person in front of it. Attention aware is optional, though, and can be turned off if you choose. Most people will want to leave attention awareness on, but for users unable to focus their attention on the iPhone, turning it off will allow the iPhone X to unlock with just a facial scan.

Face ID is also sensitive enough to tell the difference between you and someone who is wearing a mask of your face. Apple trained Face ID with hyperrealistic masks created by Hollywood studios, ensuring a mask of a person wouldn't be able to fool the Face ID system.

faceidmasks
According to Apple, Face ID is more secure than Touch ID because there are slimmer chances of a mismatch. There's a 1 in 50,000 chance someone will be able to unlock your iPhone with their fingerprint, but a 1 in 1,000,000 chance someone else's face will fool Face ID. That doesn't count for twins, though -- if you have an identical twin, that error rate increases.

Touch ID locks a device after five failed attempts, but with Face ID, Apple is only allowing two failed attempts. After two incorrect scans, the iPhone X will lock and require your passcode to unlock again. You can also discreetly disable Face ID by pressing the side button and volume buttons at the same time. This will lock it and require a passcode to access your device.

Face ID With Hats, Beards, Makeup, and Glasses

Face ID works with hats, beards, glasses, scarves, and other accessories that partially obscure the face. According to Apple, this is because the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X uses machine learning and a neural engine to recognize changes in your appearance.

It's also likely that Face ID, like other facial recognition systems, has a match threshold that's below 100 percent, so even with part of the face not visible, it recognizes the part that is visible.

faceidhatscarf
Face ID also adapts to changes in your appearance over time, so it will continue to recognize you as you grow a beard or grow your hair longer.

Update: Apple software chief Craig Federighi has confirmed that Face ID will work with most sunglasses. The infrared light used by Face ID can penetrate all but the darkest sunglasses.

Face ID When Unconscious or Sleeping

If someone knocks you unconscious or attempts to unlock your iPhone X with your face while you're sleeping, it's not going to work.

As mentioned above, you need to look at your iPhone for Face ID to grant access to your device.

Face ID Privacy

On iPhones with Touch ID, your fingerprint data is stored in a Secure Enclave on the device, and the same is true of Face ID. Your facial map is encrypted and kept in the Secure Enclave, with authentication happening entirely on your device. No Face ID data is uploaded to iCloud or sent to Apple.

Multiple Faces in Face ID

When using Touch ID, multiple fingerprints can be added to a device so more than one person can unlock it. That is not possible with Face ID. Face ID makes a map of a single face and that's the only face that can unlock the iPhone X. To add a new face, the existing face must be removed.

Face ID at an Angle

You don't need to hold the iPhone X right in front of your face for it to make a Face ID scan. On stage at the keynote event, it was shown held at a comfortable viewing angle and held flat downwards while making an Apple Pay payment at payment terminal.

faceidangle

Face ID and Apple Pay

Face ID replaces Touch ID when authenticating Apple Pay purchases. When checking out with Apple Pay, a glance at the iPhone X will authenticate a payment, and a double click on the side button of the device will confirm it.

faceidapplepay
Face ID will also work in lieu of Touch ID for confirming iTunes payments, accessing secure apps, and more. All third-party apps that use Touch ID will also be able to use Face ID.

Face ID Special Features

With the "attention aware" feature, the iPhone X knows when you're looking at it. Face ID will display notifications and messages on the Lock screen when you look at the iPhone X, it will keep the screen lit, and it will automatically lower the volume of an alarm or ringer when it knows your attention is on the iPhone X's display.

faceidmessagesunlock

Face ID Neural Engine

Face ID is powered by a two-core neural engine built into the A11 Bionic chip. It works in real time and can process more than 600 billion operations per second.

To train the neural engine, Apple used more than a billion facial images and created several neural networks.

Face ID Growing Pains

Touch ID was slow and imperfect when it first launched, and Face ID may not be perfect right away either. iPhone X hands-on reports were generally impressed with the Face ID feature, but there were some reports of problems with the feature not working until the display was turned on and off.

Apple will likely refine Face ID in software updates to further work out bugs, and future iPhones will undoubtedly come with more advanced Face ID systems that further improve the feature's functionality.

Apple says Face ID is the future of how we will unlock our smartphones, suggesting Face ID will be the de facto Touch ID replacement in devices going forward.

Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

OldSchoolMacGuy Avatar
66 months ago
It continually updates the face map so it always recognizes you.

Imagine someone seeing a picture of you with and without a beard. Big difference. But if you take a picture each day or even many times a day as that beard grows, the change is far less drastic and the difference isn't much.

There are a LOT of people crying about this feature without ever using it. People cried about Touch ID too because they had the chance to use it. I recommend trying it before you whine about it.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Futhark Avatar
66 months ago
It failed at the demo. Even if there is a valid reason they need to get 3rd party sites to verify it really does work as quickly as possible.
It didn’t fail it hadn’t been setup properly for the demo. Every new reboot you have to put in your passcode first before touchID or faceID will work.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
EugW Avatar
66 months ago
This article almost sounds like someone cut and paste (or paraphrased) some Apple press info.

It didn’t fail it hadn’t been setup properly for the demo. Every new reboot you have to put in your passcode first before touchID or faceID will work.
Nope. That wasn't the issue. It failed twice, which is the limit for Face ID apparently, according to updated information posted today.

Update: Face ID is disabled after two unsuccessful attempts, requiring the user to enter the device passcode in order to be re-enabled, as described in Apple's developer beta documentation ('https://developer.apple.com/documentation/localauthentication/lapolicy/1622327-deviceownerauthenticationwithbio'), implying that Federighi was unable to authenticate the first device.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roland.g Avatar
66 months ago
Sunglasses could be a big deal.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JGIGS Avatar
66 months ago
Face ID is really intriguing but touch ID was so easy and convenient. I was a little shocked at how they said 1-50,000 could beat a fingerprint ID vs 1-1,000,000 with face recognition. I thought we all had unique fingerprints? Like snowflakes. :)

I will say I still much rather face ID than an awkwardly placed rear touch ID.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
44267547 Avatar
66 months ago
Does it though..?
Obviously it does. Do you really think Apple would release a security feature that they didn't spend an immense amount of time protecting one's privacy and security over something they didn't have complete faith in?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
adaptive transparency airpods pro

iOS 16.1 Beta Brings Adaptive Transparency to Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 29, 2022 1:08 pm PDT by
The third beta of iOS 16.1 that was released earlier this week expands the Adaptive Transparency feature introduced with the second-generation AirPods Pro to the original AirPods Pro. As noted on Reddit, first-generation AirPods Pro owners who also have the AirPods beta software will now see an "Adaptive Transparency" toggle in the AirPods section of the Settings app. The 5A304A beta...
tim cook malala

Tim Cook: Not Too Long From Now, You'll Wonder How You Led Your Life Without AR

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:26 am PDT by
Speaking at Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that not too long from today, people will wonder how they led a life without augmented reality, stressing the "profound" impact it will have on the not so distant future. At the university, Cook was awarded an Honorary Degree in Innovation and International Management and also sat down for a...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iOS 16 Wallpaper Spectrum Feature

Five Wallpaper Apps to Check Out for iOS 16's New Lock Screen Depth Effect

Thursday September 29, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
One of the biggest new features in iOS 16 is a completely redesigned iPhone Lock Screen. The new Lock Screen is entirely customizable, letting you change the colors and fonts, add widgets and new wallpapers, and more to make your iPhone uniquely yours. Of course, even before iOS 16, you could customize your Lock Screen with a wallpaper of your choice. iOS 16 takes the Lock Screen wallpaper...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
mx mechanical keyboard logitech

Logitech Launches New 'Designed for Mac' Mice and Keyboards

Wednesday September 28, 2022 12:01 am PDT by
Logitech today announced the launch of several new mice and keyboards that have been developed for use with Apple's Macs, including Logitech's first mechanical keyboard that has been optimized for the Mac. The MX Mechanical Mini for Mac Keyboard has a keyboard layout designed for Macs, with tools to customize shortcuts with Logi Options+. The keyboard uses Tactile Quiet low-profile switches...
iphone 14 iphone 14 plus in hand feature

iPhone 14 Is Secretly Hiding a Beloved Mac Feature

Friday September 30, 2022 3:24 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models bring over a longstanding Mac feature, but the setting to enable it is off by default. The feature, which is actually a new accessibility option, allows the iPhone to play a startup chime like the Mac. When enabled, the sound comes alongside a new shutdown chime. The Mac has featured a startup chime since 1987's Macintosh II, and the iconic "bong"...