Here’s What the Reviewers are Saying About iPhone X Facial Recognition

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 113 Comments

Here's What the Reviewers are Saying About iPhone Facial Recognition

OK, the “all-screen” iPhone X has a huge notch and very obvious bezels eating into its on-screen real estate. But the biggest potential issue for the device involves another Apple design compromise: Its reliance on facial recognition rather than the trusted and reliable Touch ID sensor.

I don’t have a formal relationship with Apple—I’m too “truthy” for them—so we’ll have to collectively turn to the tech bloggers who did get early access to the iPhone X. And while their opinions of the devices are generally very positive—of course they are, that’s why they got the iPhone X from Apple—let’s just focus on what they found using Face ID, Apple’s facial recognition technology. Which used to be Kinect. Whatever.

A few selections.


According to CNET reviewer Scott Stein, Face ID works “pretty well.”

Face ID worked well in early tests.

Unlocking isn’t automatic. Instead, the phone “readies for unlock” when it recognizes my face. So I look at the iPhone, and then a lock icon at the top unlocks. But the iPhone still needs my finger-swipe to finish the unlock. It’s fast, but that extra step means it’s not instantaneous. Face ID did recognize me most of the time but sometimes, every once in a while, it didn’t.

Face ID worked perfectly in almost completely dark room, too, lit only by the iPhone’s screen. (It uses infrared).

Bottom line: Face ID is “more resilient” than he expected.


Matthew Panzarino has this to say for TechCrunch:

My threshold for “success” [is] whether Face ID works as well or better than first-generation Touch ID.

Wait. What? Shouldn’t it be whether it works better than Touch ID on the iPhone 8?

I didn’t expect it to nail the speed of the second-gen sensor, which is incredibly fast. As long as it landed between the two I would be happy.

Wow. This is what Apple fandom looks like, folks.

Face ID works really well … It worked the vast majority of times I tried it … and the failure rate seemed to be about the same as Touch ID — aka almost never. As hoped, it’s definitely faster than the first generation of Touch ID, though perhaps slightly slower than the second gen.

Bottom line: You can’t trust this review, obviously.

The Verge

Nilay Patel—who I really like, by the way—offers maybe the most realistic review I’ve seen so far.

Face ID: It works, mostly

The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t, and you will definitely have to adjust the way you think about using your phone to get it to a place where it mostly works great.

In my early tests, Face ID worked well indoors.

[But] you also can’t be too casual about it: I had a lot of problems pulling the iPhone X out of my pocket and having it fail to unlock until Apple clarified that Face ID works best at a distance of 25 to 50 centimeters away from your face, or about 10 to 20 inches. That’s closer than I usually hold my phone when I pull it out of my pocket to check something, which means I had to actively think about holding the iPhone X closer to my face than every other phone I’ve ever used. “You’re holding it wrong” is a joke until it isn’t, and you can definitely hold the iPhone X wrong.

Go outside in bright sunlight, which contains a lot of infrared light, or under crappy florescent lights, which interfere with IR, and Face ID starts to get a little inconsistent.

Face ID definitely had issues recognizing my face consistently while I was moving until I went into shade or brought the phone much closer to my face than usual … Recent Apple products have tended to demand people adapt to them instead of being adapted to people, and it was hard not to think about that as I stood in the sunlight, waving a thousand-dollar phone ever closer to my face.

Bottom line: Face ID is a mixed bag.


Veteran Apple fan Steven Levy reviewed the iPhone X for Wired:

Does it work? Pretty much.

There have been times when, despite a clear view of my face, the iPhone X has ghosted me. (Apple tells me that perhaps I wasn’t making what the iPhone X considers eye contact. I wouldn’t want it to turn on every time my face was within camera range, would I?)

I really liked Apple Pay with iPhone X—having to double-click on the side button and then use Face ID was a clearer way to do transactions.

Bottom line: Despite the issues and a crazy amount of time spent describing the poop animoji and his workarounds, he gives Apple a pass. You should give this guy a pass.

A few thoughts

There are some serious trust issues here, but then that’s always been the issue on the Apple side of the fence. Reviewers are just fans who give Apple a pass when they don’t deserve it. I’ll keep looking at reviews, but so far I think it boils down to preconceived notions. If you support Apple, you’ll deal with the issues. If you don’t, you are not buying this phone anyway.

It’s too bad that it’s like this, frankly. But there you go. And if you’re going to read just one review, read the one at The Verge.


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