One of the most interesting new features of the just-announced iPhone X is Face ID. This facial recognition system takes the place of Touch ID, using a three-dimensional map of your face to unlock your device and authenticate for Apple Pay transactions. Let’s take a look at how the system works and what you need to know about it.
What Is Face ID?
The first thing you need to know is that Face ID is not just comparing your face with a normal photograph. When you first set up the authentication method, your iPhone X actually draws a complex three-dimensional map of your face using infrared technology.
The components of Apple's Face ID hardware in the iPhone X
As noted KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted, Apple announced that the Face ID technology uses a multiple-component array to gather the images for this array and then compare them to the authenticated model later on. There is an infrared camera, flood illuminator, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, front camera, and dot projector utilized to authenticate your face.
The use of light in the infrared spectrum allows the system to work in the dark or in light. It allows the system to collect depth information, even ignoring such obstacles as facial hair and eyeglasses, providing an accurate model to use in authenticating the owner of the iOS device.
After you’ve set up Face ID, the iPhone X uses all of these components together to ensure your face is in the optimal position for authentication. You have to be looking at your iPhone for the Face ID technology to work, and everything is stored in the secure enclave.
How Will I Set Up Face ID?
Much as you enrolled fingerprints for Touch ID, you’ll have to enroll your face for Face ID. Your iPhone X will walk you through this process, having you place your device such that your face fits within a square frame.
You’ll then be asked to gently move your face in around, watching a circle on your handset fill up. Once you complete the green circle, the first Face ID scan will be complete. You’ll then repeat the process to continue generating the complex three-dimensional map required by Face ID.
Using Face ID to Unlock Your iPhone X
Once it’s set up, Face ID should be able to recognize the particulars of your face in a variety of positions. You won’t need to position your head in an exact position as you did for setup, because the array of sensors will be able to extrapolate all of the needed facial recognition features from the three-dimensional map.
Since Face ID utilizes infrared technology, low-light conditions shouldn’t be a problem. It will detect the outline and features of your face even in the dark, so you’ll be able to unlock your iPhone X when there’s little or no light.
Apple announced that the system will even work at an oblique angle, such as when you’re holding your phone almost horizontal to complete a transaction at an Apple Pay terminal. Face ID operates at speeds registered in milliseconds, so it should be even faster to authenticate than Touch ID.
Time Will Tell If Face ID Works as Advertised
Many people, from laypersons to experts, have expressed their doubts about how well Face ID will actually work. Much of the doubt is based on other implementations, though, that don’t utilize the infrared or three-dimensional authentication that Apple has innovated. I believe the system should be very successful, but only time will tell.