Face ID Can't Be Used to Approve Family Purchases on iPhone X

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Increasing numbers of iPhone X owners with children are finding that they are unable to approve family purchases using Face ID. The scale of the frustration was recently highlighted by ArsTechnica, which linked to a page on Apple's support forum containing hundreds of complaints.

Basically, iPhone X users are unable to use facial authentication with the "Ask to Buy" feature, which lets parents approve their kids' iOS purchases and downloads. On iOS devices with Touch ID, parents – or "family organizers", as Apple calls them – can use Touch ID to approve Ask to Buy, but iPhone X owners are forced to enter their password manually on every occasion, which could quickly become a nuisance for device owners with big families.


The inability to approve family purchases with Face ID is noteworthy, given that Apple has marketed it as a functional like-for-like replacement for Touch ID, but with enhanced security and speed. The frustration surrounding the missing functionality appears to have come to a head only recently because of the popularity of App Store gift cards over the holiday season.

Face ID is generally very secure in everyday use cases, and while some attempts to fool the feature have been successful, many involve complicated technical methods and a good deal of preparation.

That said, we have seen evidence of a 10-year-old child unlocking his mother's iPhone X with his face, even though Face ID was set up with her face. Apple itself also notes that Face ID often fails to identify between identical twins, while the probability of a false match is higher among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed. These caveats have led some to speculate whether Apple is erring on the side of caution in choosing not to deploy Face ID for family purchase approval.

In early 2013, Apple settled a class action lawsuit originally filed by parents after their children ran up hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases in freemium games. In 2014, the company entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, promising to provide $32 million in refunds to parents whose children purchased unauthorized in-app items.

Tag: Face ID

Top Rated Comments

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36 months ago
I have found that the "Apple Ecosystem" leaves families behind more often than not. They've made good strides in recent years, but some of these little details are unbelievably frustrating for parents. My 13 year old son is increasingly hostile to Apple because of this type of seemingly needless roadblock to ease of use. He grew up with Apple products, but when allowed to choose would rather have anything else. I've noticed his friends also have a growing dislike of Apple - not a good trend for Apple (granted mine is a small, unscientific observation).

If the main point for paying a premium for Apple products and services is that they should "just work", Cupertino needs to rethink recent strategies. I've always been willing to pay for the convenience of the ecosystem, but this is another example of where it isn't working for many of us. At some point, despite my investment, I'll have to evaluate if it's worth it.

On a side note, I just spent an hour having to reset my iCloud and keychain settings for the 3rd time this year, this time to get my new Apple Watch to work properly. Given the many threads where people are having to constantly tweak iCloud to work properly across devices, I don't think the Apple ecosystem is "just working".
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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36 months ago
And we believe Apple when they say Face ID was always the preference and Touch ID under the screen was never an option...
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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36 months ago

I had my X for three days now, I will never go back to Touch ID.

You are correct. You will never go back to Touch ID because Apple won't let you. Not your choice unless you downgrade to a slowed-down phone. Gotta love the "Apple ecosystem."
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago

And we believe Apple when they say Face ID was always the preference and Touch ID under the screen was never an option...

I had my X for three days now, I will never go back to Touch ID.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago
Don’t have children (or family). Simple solution.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
36 months ago
As I thought from the beginning. It's not that the technology behind Face ID is flawed in any way. I'm sure Apple has perfected it as Apple does every time. But there will be more and more cases that will show that the inclusion of Face ID in everyday use cases of the iPhone was not well-thought through.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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