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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Dan Moren

David Pogue on why Face ID really failed

Veteran tech journalist David Pogue gets to the bottom of the onstage Face ID failure at Tuesday’s Apple event:

FINAL UPDATE: Tonight, I was able to contact Apple. After examining the logs of the demo iPhone X, they now know exactly what went down. Turns out my first theory in this story was wrong—but my first UPDATE theory above was correct: “People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time,” says a rep, “and didn’t realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.” In other words, “Face ID worked as it was designed to.”

So, unsurprisingly, it’s a feature, not a bug.

This does raise some concerns. MacRumors points out that Face ID allows for only two failures rather than the five that Touch ID allows, which could be a testament to how accurate Apple believes the technology to be, but also means that if anybody else—a friend, partner, or a child, for example—picks up your phone and it tries to scan their face, it doesn’t take much before you’re entering your passcode again.

I also haven’t seen confirmed news that Face ID allows only one face to be enrolled, though I have heard from a few different places that that is the case—at least at launch. That’s tricky for those of us who have enrolled our partner’s fingerprint in Touch ID to give them access to our phone, but I imagine it could also, again, be a pain for those who want to let their kids use their phone. If this is the case, hopefully a future update will allow for multiple faces to be enrolled.1


  1. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest the solution to this is “just give the other person your passcode.” Yes, that would work, but the virtue of Touch ID/Face ID is it means I can have a long, complicated passcode that’s more secure because I don’t have to type it as often. Asking someone else to remember my long complicated passcode, well, it’s not so much that it’s a burden as it’s just unlikely they will remember it.  ↩