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Face ID on the iPhone X: Apple releases Face ID white paper and support document

Glenn Fleishman | Sept. 28, 2017
Apple introduced Face ID with the iPhone X, a new way to secure the phone. You have questions and we'll have the answers in this FAQ.


Other phones have facial recognition and aren’t great at it. Will Face ID be better?

Apple wades into a market full of people disappointed by previous attempts to get a kind of technology to work. Sound familiar? A New York Times review of the Samsung Note 8—which has iris, facial, and fingerprint scanning—offered this scathing opinion: “Some of the biometrics, including the ability to unlock your phone by scanning your face or irises, are so poorly executed that they feel like marketing gimmicks as opposed to actual security features.”

Until all-comers can start using Face ID, we can’t know whether or not it will perform up to the standards that Apple has set for widescale introduction of features other companies offer failed or weak versions of. Touch ID’s early days were generally good, but plenty of people—this writer included—had to regularly retrain fingers. Over time, that problem seems to have disappeared, as complaints are rare these days in forums in which they were once common.

The real test is one of time: as you change make-up, glasses, and hair styles, and as our features tick away the passage of time, will Face ID keep up with us?

Face ID appeared to fail for Apple exec Craig Federighi during the demo. Apple later said that because the demo unit was handled by a number of people between when Federighi trained it and the demo, it exceeded the bad-match limit, a security feature, and locked out Face ID as it was supposed to.


Do I have to use Face ID?

No, you can use a passcode.

In fact, you can use a passcode at any time instead of Face ID, except in cases of third-party apps that are using Face ID explicitly as a biometric second factor. Apple doesn’t rely on this for unlocking iOS or other purposes yet.


How do I disable Face ID?

You have several options:

  • You can use Settings in iOS 11 to disable it.
  • You can power down your phone and restart it.
  • You can make five failed attempts to unlock it.
  • You can press the Wake/Sleep button five times in sequence. (This disables Touch ID in iOS 11 on all models.)
  • You can press and hold the Wake/Sleep button and either volume button on the opposite side while the phone is sleeping. This new option triggers a power-down screen, but also disables Face ID. (This also works to disable Touch ID on an iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but isn't available on older phones.)
  • You send a remote lock command via Find My iPhone.


When can’t I use Face ID?


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