Apple refutes claim it weakened Face ID to solve iPhone X production woes

Apple on Wednesday issued an official statement to Business Insider’s Steve Kovach, refuting Bloomberg’s article that it has decided to weaken Face ID, one the key features of iPhone X, in order to keep iPhone X production on schedule.

According to Kovach, an Apple spokesperson said (emphasis mine):

Customer excitement for iPhone X and Face ID has been incredible and we can’t wait for customers to get their hands on it starting Friday, November 3. Face ID is a powerful and secure authentication system that’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use.

The quality and accuracy of Face ID haven’t changed. It continues to be 1 in a million probably of a random person unlocking your iPhone X with Face ID.

Bloomberg’s claim that Apple has reduced the accuracy specification for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication.

There you have it.

For the sake of completeness, here’s what Bloomberg’s write-up originally said:

To boost the number of usable dot projectors and accelerate production, Apple relaxed some of the specifications for Face ID, according to a different person with knowledge of the process. As a result, it took less time to test completed modules, one of the major sticking points, the person said.

It’s not clear how much the new specs will reduce the technology’s efficacy. At the phone’s official unveiling in September, executives boasted that there was a one in a million chance that an interloper could defeat Face ID to unlock a phone. Even downgraded, it will probably still be far more accurate than Touch ID, where the odds of someone other than the owner of a phone being able to unlock it are one in 50,000.

I’m so glad Apple reacted swiftly and made this statement.

As TechCrunch says:

If Apple were to have made claims about accuracy and not updated them before the phone released this year, it would be on the hook to answer to that difference by consumer advocacy groups. Which also likely encouraged it to respond.

Bloomberg’s charge was extremely serious, suggesting the defining iPhone X feature may not turn out to be as accurate and reliable as expected because Apple would supposedly rather rush Face ID to market than perfect it to meet its own self-imposed security standards.

If Apple really did that—rushed a half-baked 3D facial recognition sensor on the tenth anniversary iPhone—it wouldn’t just put its reputation on the line, but also risked eroding sales and killing the buzz that surrounds every new iPhone launch.

The worst thing it could have done is leave those unsubstantiated claims unanswered.

I know Bloomberg’s write-up is completely based on anonymous sources (as usual), but keep in mind this isn’t the first time they ran a sensationalist headline without checking their facts.

For the sake of balanced reporting, the least Bloomberg’s writers should have done before hitting the publish button is call their Apple contacts and ask for a comment.

The fact they didn’t makes me very angry.

I think we can agree that this was an incredibly irresponsible hit piece on Bloomberg’s part.

Yes? No?