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What is Face ID? Explaining Apple’s Face Unlock System


When you open your iPhone, you may be prompted to use Face ID – but what is it and how does it work?

If you’re an iPhone user, chances are you’ve come across the term Face ID before, during setup or when unlocking your phone. However, if you’re not sure what it is, or you’re just curious about how it actually works, then just read on for the full explanation.

What is Face ID?

Face ID is Apple’s facial recognition feature, which is available on iPhone and iPad. When activated, the device will use its front-facing cameras to scan your face to make sure it’s you and not someone else using the phone. It’s most commonly used to unlock a phone, but it can also be used for in-app verification, for example if you’re making a purchase.

How does Face ID work?

Apple declares that Facial recognition technology is one of the most advanced hardware and software, and it’s not hard to see why. Here is the manufacturer’s explanation of how the technology works:

The TrueDepth camera captures accurate face data by projecting and analyzing thousands of invisible points to create a depth map of your face. It also captures an infrared image of your face. The part of the neural engine of the A11, A12 Bionic, A12X Bionic, A13 Bionic, A14 Bionic and A15 Bionic chips protected in the Secure Enclave converts the depth map and infrared image into a mathematical representation and compares this representation with the registered face data.

Not only is this system highly accurate, but it can work despite difficult conditions, such as when you’re wearing a scarf, glasses, makeup, or growing your facial hair.

How to set up Face ID?

If your iPhone has Face ID, you’ll be prompted to set it up the first time you turn on your phone. However, if it hasn’t been implemented at this point, you can set it later by going to your phone’s Settings app and tapping on Face ID & Passcode, where you’ll see the option to set up Face ID.

How do you use Face ID?

Using Face ID isn’t difficult at all; in fact, all you need to do is just look at your iPhone’s selfie camera. When you try to unlock your phone, the TrueDepth camera is activated either by touching the screen or by lifting it up, and then it only needs to scan your face or eyes to unlock it.

Apple says this technology works best when the phone is between 25-50cm from your face and can be used whether you hold it in front of your face or lay it on a surface.

Is Face ID secure?

According to Apple, Face ID is very secure; it states that “there is less than a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that a random person in the public can look at your iPhone or iPad Pro and unlock it with Face ID, with one reported sighting, whether you’re wearing a mask or No”. After 5 failed login attempts, you will be prompted to enter your PIN instead.


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