Whenever a significant new technology is incorporated into mainstream mobile phones, such upgrade should naturally be fair game for scrutiny and critique. Conversely, if by objective standards the new arrival clears all bars, I can think of two reasons why it feels critical to acknowledge the innovative work done by its originators: because for one that credit has been hard earned and – looking at the bigger picture – sowing doubt about a feature that will inevitably saturate most phones in the market is only going to needlessly unsettle the consumer in the long run.
If you haven’t paced ahead and done it already, let’s apply this general sentiment to the introduction of Face ID and how it has resonated with large parts of the online community. Is it being treated fairly? Is the outrage over twins apparently being able to dupe the security system a flash in the pan or a real head scratcher? And, outside of Apple centric outlets and communities, is Face ID being given a fair rap?
I’m excited to read your opinions below, but having rummaged iPhone X related articles for about a week, my impression is that Apple are largely being shortchanged for the remarkable feat of engineering they pulled off with Face ID. My rationalization of this discrepancy is two-fold: the golden rule of journalism that reporting controversy affecting a large user base will drum up more excitement than covering a feature that works as promised, and of course adherents of other brands fervently jeering and gloating as though Face ID (and iPhone X by extension) was an expensive dud (#FaceGate).
Since I stopped concealing my opinion on the sometimes petty coverage of Face ID a few paragraphs ago, allow me to dig in my heels even deeper at this point and give you a few reasons as to why exactly I think the drama is off-base and largely fabricated.
It just works
Listen to the lucky few who already have gotten ahold of an iPhone X and nine out of ten times you will hear nothing but amazement about Face ID. It’s fast, secure and effortless. For what it’s worth, yes identical twins seem to be able to trick the system under certain circumstances. All the same, it is a bit of a storm in a teacup bearing in mind multiple ways to circumvent this ostensible security threat (as per below). By now we have also learnt that there is a Settings switch to access the phone even faster while still using Face ID, meaning there is a good deal of customization to ensure every user gets the most out of the experience.
There is still the passcode!
Amidst the fear mongering, what’s often conveniently overlooked is that the back up to Face ID – the old school passcode option – is still in place and a viable alternative for Face ID if you either don’t trust the technology or, for some (statistically very improbable) reason, it does not work as envisioned. When Touch ID made its debut on iPhone 5s four years ago, it was somehow less frowned upon to resort to the passcode screen whenever a Touch ID reading would fail.
Touch ID arguably started out less accurate than Face ID’s first iteration.
Speaking of the former and now abandoned gatekeeper to your device’s home screen: remember Touch ID on the iPhone 5s? I do, and for me it was nothing short of flaky. Balmy hands? Access denied. Grain of sand on the sensor? Access denied. Using the wrong finger? Go again, pal. Some of those hiccups in fact persist to this day.
None of these issues will befall Face ID and, what’s more, it is only uphill from here in terms of detection speeds and any possible quirks discovered by the millions of users. Software (and hardware) updates will come in thick and fast, making tactile authentication a thing of the past likely in the next 1-2 years.
Apple is spearheading unparalleled consumer technology
I’m not usually a big fan of the if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything mantra: if companies put out shoddy tech, by all means naming and shaming should be the name of the game. That being said, the finesse and ingenuity behind Apple’s TrueDepth camera (projecting 30,000 dots on your face in order to code and decode a unique depth map) should make anyone, partial or impartial to Apple, stop and acknowledge the commitment to innovation and security Apple demonstrably holds.
If any other player in the market had a similar or better technology on the shelves, it would be warranted to moan or sneer at hiccups, but the simple, unassailable fact is that this is not the case. It is equally misguided to trot out the ‘Welcome to [insert a year between 2009 and 2015], Apple’ platitude, as neither Android’s simplistic face detection nor Samsung’s iris scanner play in the same league as Apple’s complex Face ID technology.
None of this is me making apologies for a perhaps still imperfect Face ID, however it is my argument against irrational and overbearing flack against it. Whenever I come across indifferent or negatively tinged articles on the iPhone X’s authentication, it makes me squirm just a little bit on the inside.
Why? Because frankly I don’t doubt for a moment that Apple has pioneered something meaningful here, and that it will not be long until the Googles and Samsungs of this world catch on and replicate the technology to a T. And for that, Apple deserves more credit.