Google with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich introduced a new way to unlock a device using facial recognition technology. It doesn’t always work as intended (especially in low-light situations), is taxing on resources and can be hacked. Still, face unlock is one of the “wow” capabilities Android phone owners like to brag about.

Samsung took facial recognition to the next level with the Galaxy SIII smartphone. The device tracks eye movement, preventing the screen from going dark when you’re looking at it. According to a patent filing published Thursday by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple is researching automatic facial analysis to automate locking and unlocking of future iPhones, iPads and iPods…

According to the filing, an unlocked mobile device could be configured to capture and analyze the images in order to detect a user’s face. If your face doesn’t appear in the images, the system would automatically lock the device.

The camera capturing and face recognition processing may be triggered by the device having detected that it has been motionless for a threshold period of time.

A locked iOS device could also tap an accelerometer sensor to detect when it’s being moved, telling the camera to snap an image and match it against the user’s face.

In another embodiment, a locked mobile device is configured to capture an initial image using its camera, capture a new image in response to detecting movement of the device, determine that the device moved to a use position, capture a subsequent image in response to determining that the device moved to a use position, analyze the subsequent image to detect a user’s face, and unlock the device in response to detecting the user’s face.

Of course, it’s fairly safe to assume that Apple’s solution – if implemented – would “just work” versus the somewhat clunky face unlock experience in Android.

Security is another problem with the Android solution: someone can simply pull your photo from the web and unlock a stolen device, as seen in the below clip.

Another patent unearthed last December serves as a good indication of how Apple might implement face unlock to allow the device to be reconfigured, based on the user that is detected. For example, wallpapers, icons and settings could all be changed depending on the user that has been detected using the device’s built-in camera.

This is what face unlock in Android like in the perfect world.

Being a Galaxy Nexus user (with Jelly Bean installed), I must say that face unlock is a feature I only use seldom, mostly to impress my friends.

It’s taxing on the battery, isn’t accurate enough and is just too slow a way to unlock my device.

Is face unlock something you’d love to see implemented on Apple’s iOS devices?

  • I don’t like the face recognition…But fingerprint recognition on iOS Devices would be awesome 😀

  • Timothy Do

    Android already has this, how can Apple patent it when it already exist? At this rate, Apple will patent eventually patent the numbers on your keypad of the phone so that they force everyone else to use roman numerals to dial.

    • Kurt

      thats the problem with fanboyism…its in the damn patent office

      • Timothy Do

        Don’t get me wrong, I had the iPhone 4 and 4s and MacBook Pro for more than 2 years , but during the lawsuit between Samsung and Apple, and fed up with Apple, I got the Galaxy Nexus and went back to Android.

      • Kurt

        I think you did a good thing. I they everyone should jump ship try another phone and OS. I want to try Andriod but I don’t know anything about it. How do you know if an app will work with your phone? Maybe this was a problem with phones around Andriod 2.1? Can pretty much any app work with your device? Most apps on the app store that have been around will work on 3.*-the current 6.0.
        Man I would love to get the Nokia 920. Change the color from time to time since its swappable. iOS is a good OS but it’s not great. Jailbreaking helps!

    • DJ

      Apple puts a new feature to it and bam iOS 7 has it.

  • Tom

    There’s already a jailbreak tweak for this and android came up with it about 2 years ago when they introduced ICS (Ice cream sandwich)

  • Kurt

    couldn’t you just hold up an A4 sheet up paper with their face printed on it? would that work?

    • wadjj

      I think the later version(Jelly Bean 4.1) resolved this by requiring you to blink your eyes.

      • Kurt

        pretty interesting….is it possible to cut holes in the eyes and put it up to your face and blink away? 😀 …probably not. thanks for the response!

      • wadjj

        Would be interested to watch if someone tries this.

      • chin2793

        you have a thief’s mind. Just kidding

      • Falk M.

        I like your way of thinking… If you want, I have a job for you.
        A couple of my prior……. “clients”… need to be taken care of… 😛


  • mariotech


  • Timothy Do

    Now before there were Android, Japanese phones has it for years, and Android has it afterwards.

    For those who are clueless about Japanese phones, which they will not release outside Japan. Check our NTT DoCoMo and Softbank in Japan. Facial Recognition have almost every mid-range to high-end devices. I had the Softbank 940SH from Sharp, and it was a beast.

    • Falk M.

      I remember wanting Japanese phones soooo badly even before the iPhone…
      I kinda still want a couple, because they are just so awesome for what they are. 🙂

      • Timothy Do

        Yeah, they were and still are considered “exotic” phones. It had excellent resale value, even more than the iPhones. I remember I bought it for $700 for a 2 year old phone, and 2 years later re-sold it for $630. $630 for a 4 year old phone is pretty damn good.

  • I think this is cool I remember there was a JB 4 this feat …but I rather have the finger print scanner

  • Primo Sidone

    wow, that htc evo 4g lte looks like a very nice phone.

  • nima

    i have that app from cydia, it also works great in low light and bright!

  • nima

    you know what apple can do to be revolutionary?
    1) while pressing the home button, it scans your thumb!!! and unlocks the phone!
    2) no more wires! wireless charging and sync!
    if apple does it it will be revolutionary!

    • 3) Much more Battery, definitely!

      • nima

        they did that on the iphone 5! it has the new type of battery(ion batteries!), which are expensive and other companies cant have it

      • Yes i know that, but i meant for the future, if it somehow for example, gets the amount of battery life as the iPad, that would make it Revolutionary and Samsung would go nuts! ;p

      • nima

        ya, its good like that. you getting iphone 5?

      • Norr, my iPhone 4 works just fine 🙂

    • rishab chedda

      fingerprint scanning already available ont he motorola atrix which was launched 2 years back

      • nima

        it doesnt work smooth

  • A photo will unlock the android phone, I’ve tried it and it works lmao

  • What, no front facing mirror for those beautiful iPhone people to admire themselves?

  • goofygreek

    Yea, this feature works just fine on my galaxy s3. It “just works”. Cant wait to see apple start suing companies b/c they “copied their idea”.

  • @dongiuj

    Let me guess, apple will say “face recognition is a standard.”