Apple’s facial recognition successor to Touch ID is here, and it is called Face ID. Now you can unlock your phone, authenticate Apple Pay, and create expressive animated emoji with just your face.

On the new iPhone X, Apple removed the ubiquitous Home button, and with it, Touch ID. Face ID is its replacement, and it is even more powerful.

You can do everything you could do with Touch ID, but now even more. To unlock your phone, you simply lift your phone, look at it, and swipe up to access your Home screen. It works in 3rd party applications like 1Password or Mint to protector your data. It even will authenticate Apple Pay. Just double tap the side button, glance at your phone, and hold near the payment terminal.

Additionally, Apple has looked for some fun new ways to take advantage of the Face ID technology. They call it Animoji, short for animated emoji. Inside of iMessage, you can now choose from a dozen characters that will mimic your facial cues. You can record short, looping videos where the emoji will move its face, and mouth to what you say and do. It maps 50 facial muscles in real time to achieve this very cool effect.


Many people were concerned about the security and accuracy of such a technology. Touch ID had a possible chance of 1 in 50,000 that a random person could unlock your phone with their finger print. Face ID is even more secure in that it is now 1 in 1,000,000 that a random person could unlock your phone.

All data is processed locally in a neural engine inside of the A11 Bionic processor. That means all your face data is stored in your phone, and never sent to Apple’s servers. Just like Touch ID, all of that information is stored inside of the Secure Enclave.

Additionally, Face ID will not unlock your phone if you have your eyes closed, or are looking away. That way it is harder to accidentally unlock your phone.

Apple’s team of engineers specifically went above and beyond to prevent not only pictures of your from unlocking your phone, but 3D masks as well. They worked with Hollywood artists to create lifelike masks in order to teach the neural networks how not to be fooled by them.

How it works

Face ID lives in a new sensor array, located at the top of the iPhone X, known as the True Depth Camera System. It is made up of several different sensors and cameras. A dot projector, infrared camera and flood illuminator work together to detect your face, no matter the circumstance. It works if you have glasses, makeup, a hat, scarf, etc. Even at night! It even evolves over time as your face changes. Whether you grow a beard, or change your hair.

To do this, it projects more than 30,000 IR dots that are invisible to the naked eye. The infrared image and dot pattern are pushed through neural networks in order to create a mathematical model of your face. That is stored inside of that Secure Enclave on your iPhone and used to detect a match when unlocking your phone.


  • Kevin Dalgaard

    To me this seems like a deal breaker. Wondering how it performs during night when it’s pitch black. Not to mention the numerous times every day I have the phone on my desk or during meetings where it’s placed on the table and I unlock it to check a message. This would require one to lift up the phone. Not very discrete.
    Looking forward to reading the reviews. Otherwise it looks really promising.

    • Barbara Sadlek

      It’s using infrared so it doesn’t matter whether you are using it in pitch black or direct sunlight.

    • It’s supposed to work perfectly well in very dark situations. So that shouldn’t be an issue. Not to mention that even if it was 100% pitch black the light from the screen would illuminate the face as well.

      However that said, I completely agree with you. There’s a lot of times I leave my phone next to me and use the thumbprint for authentication 2-step security challenges. It’s going to be a pain in the neck to have to pick it up every single time.

      • Fanboy 

        I actually agree with this, but just realized how big of whiny babies we sound. “God forbid that I have to actually PICK my phone up to use it OMG i can’t believe it. That’s a deal breaker!” Lol. First world problems I guess.

      • It is a first world problem for sure 😀 But that said, I think there is something to saying, “Wait Apple… You spend billions on R&D, manufacturing, and user accessibility and the end result is a process that now takes an extra step?”

        Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a very cool technology and one that I hope Samsung copies for the safety and security of their customers, but as someone who currently doesn’t have to pick up my phone to use it, this is a step back. But I’ll be curious to see it when it comes out. Perhaps this is easily rectified by getting an iPhone dock for my desk.

    • Galaxy Life

      It will work fine in total darkness.

      The light from your screen we’ll be more than enough.

  • askep3

    What are the angles it can scan at?

    • That will actually be a VERY interesting question to see answered as time moves on. The videos seem to indicate that it doesn’t have to be straight on, but I doubt it will work correctly at a 45 degree angle if laying on your desk for instance. I would guess that we could safely assume that if you were to turn on the front cam and move your phone around while keeping your face somewhere on screen that will give you a good idea of the viable angles the hardware can see you at.

    • Galaxy Life

      Wherever it is it will be greater when holding the phone than we it’s sitting flat on a desk.

      If it’s anything like the iris scanner on the S8 it should be able to scan at 30° or greater.

  • M_Hawke

    “just double tap the side button, glance at your phone, and hold near the payment terminal.”

    As I said in a previous blog, this is less convenient, or more inconvenient, than it Apply Pay currently is now. Currently, I carry my phone in my left pocket. To make an Apple Pay transaction, as I pull my phone out, my left (registered) thumb is on the Home button, I touch the reader and it’s done, no confirmation required.
    Also, at some businesses, the reader is placed in such a way (wedged between counter top POS items, the register, etc.) that getting that extra hand or finger in there to double-click that button is going to be more of a hassle. And double-clicking a button on the side is inherently more of a hassle as it requires the correct and more leverage. You may think I’m being ridiculously picky, but that is the reality of it. I would rather click a button with my thumb than double-click a side button.

    If I upgrade, it will be to the iPhone 8, not the X. The X just has enough quirks to not make it a “wow-I-gotta-get-one-for-a-thousand-bucks!” deal.

    • I’m not sure it’s actually as bad as that. Right now it would also be valid to say that you have to double press the home button to bring up Apple Pay and then hold near the terminal and scan your thumbprint. However in my experience when a payment is ready to be made and the phone is near enough to the receiver it automatically wakes itself and jumps to the payment mode anyways. So assuming this behavior hasn’t changed I think looking at it would be just as easy and the thumbprint.

      Now if you’re someone who has several cards and the default card isn’t what you want to use I’m sure you’ll have to use the steps you outlined so you don’t pay accidentally with the wrong card.

      • M_Hawke

        Naw, having your thumb on a home button is SO much more easier than having to deal with double-clicking a side button. That’s an extra step. And potentially one that’s a nuisance. I would take a double-click on a home button than a side button ANY day. And besides, Apple Pay is currently a one-handed operation. Use of the side button is now a two-handed operation. You cannot convince me that this new system is in any way equal to or more convenient that the current home button system.

      • My only point is that unless you need to switch cards it’s still a one handed operation and it no longer requires any button pressing either. Simply pull your phone out, hold near the register and when it wakes up, look at it. Hard to imagine it getting easier than that…

      • M_Hawke

        The article said you have to double press the side button to confirm. Am I reading something incorrectly?

      • Ok so (unless they changed something) right now you can either hold your phone near a payment terminal in which case it will wake itself and go straight to payment mode OR you can double click the home button to go to payment mode and then hold it near the register. Unless they removed that first option I assume that those instructions are for the later method.

        And it makes sense that they would take the time to explain the second method as the first is self explanatory, with the removal of the home button one would have to explain how to open the payment mode. For someone like me who always uses the same card for Apple Pay I’ll stick with option 1 (unless it’s being removed). But if someone has lots of cards and can’t afford to have their device authenticate with a glance before picking their card option 2 as explained by apple will be the route to go.

  • M_Hawke

    “To unlock your phone, you simply lift your phone, look at it, and swipe up to access your Home screen.”

    Wait, are we now back to a new flavor of “Slide to unlock?” Back to a two-step process to unlock your phone? That’s one thing I love about my 7 Plus–getting rid of that silly extra step of sliding to unlock.

    • Well assuming it works as it is supposed to, when you pull your phone out to look at a notification it will already have turned itself on and authenticated just by the action of you pulling it out of your pocket and looking at it. So I’m not sure it’s fair to call those two things steps as you probably don’t often try to turn your phone on and authenticate it while it’s in your pocket and you’re not able to see it.

      That said, this is actually easier as your notifications are right there and fully authenticated to immediately interact with AND if you want to get to the home screen it’s still one action. A swipe however instead of a press. Overall it’s a clever new system (assuming it works as well as they say despite the two failed attempts on stage) and seems to be easier to use. Especially considering that action will now be used to swap apps, go home and more. So unless you suffer from carpel tunnel I think this will actually be a great change in the long run.

      • M_Hawke

        Oh, so there’s more to it than what was said in that sentence that I quoted. Well, if it is as you describe, then that’s fine.

      • M_Hawke

        Just saw a video demo of FaceID. Yep, we are back to a new reiteration of swipe to unlock.

      • Yeah it’s essentially swipe to unlock without needing to worry about passwords or even waking the screen. And since that same swipe action is used to exit every app I think it will feel very natural very fast.

        Speaking of the swipe to go home action I noticed that it works no matter how the phone is oriented. That’s actually pretty cool as it makes using it in landscape one handed a lot more practical.

      • M_Hawke

        Yep, but I still hate having to do an extra swipe, an extra action, an extra anything.

      • Oh I totally get that. I just figure now it’s either pressing a button or swiping up from the bottom. I figure it’s one action in either case and since the swipe action can now be used on all sides of the phone it seems to me to be more practical in the long run.

        But to each their own. I still don’t like this new phone overall, but I the faceID and resulting changes I actually think are an improvement.

  • Jeff Laing

    How many sets of identical twins do you think they tried it on? Definitely going to be taking my boys to the Apple store when these are available to poke/prod…

    Note that saying “it is now 1 in 1,000,000 that a random person” makes no statements whatsoever about *related people*. I have known many families where facial features were astonishingly similar even without twins being involved.

  • siddique

    about the security , how about some on raise my phone to my face and open it ? or when im sleeping?
    neither the touch id is secured ,,, manual password is secured you cant say it to anyone when u dont want ,

  • i was so excited to share my excitement with you two and the podcast but y’all sound so bummed and bitter about all the options