Apple’s new iPhone is great with faces – but how does it work?
With just one look at your ugly mug, Apple’s Face ID technology can tell if the phone is being held by its rightful owner.
But how does it work? And is it safe enough to keep your friends from unlocking your phone and filling your camera roll with ridiculous selfies?
How does Face ID work?
If you have an iPhone with a “notch” at the top of the screen, you can use Face ID. The notch is basically where the cutout for the front camera is. But here you will also find an infrared camera, a point projector, a proximity sensor, a floodlight and an ambient light sensor.
They aren’t there to take sci-fi selfies, they scan your face every time you want to access your phone. Apple calls it a TrueDepth camera system.
Every time you pick up your phone, the floodlight (we had never heard of one before) recognizes that it has been presented with a face, which then triggers the IR camera and point projector. The former takes an infrared photo, while the point projector displays 30,000 points on your face – a bit like recording an actor’s motion for an animated film or game.
The phone then compares these images with the map of your face. If it’s a match, you’re in.
How do you set it up?
You set up Face ID when you unpack your new iPhone, but it’s a very simple process. You simply point the camera at your face and you can be viewed from all sides. That’s it.
You can even change your look and it will still recognize you so putting on a hat and glasses and growing a beard won’t fool you either.
How safe is it?
According to Apple, Touch ID had a 1 in 50,000 chance of accepting the fake fingerprint, while Face ID has 1 in 1,000,000. Unless you have an identical twin. In that case, you might want to use a passcode, especially if it’s nasty.
Face ID can be used to authorize Apple Pay transactions or to access apps that previously required a fingerprint. That means that the banks are obviously convinced and these people are keeping their money in huge vaults so you can be pretty sure that they are taking security seriously.
As with Touch ID, the scan of your face that others are compared to is stored on the phone itself, so Apple never has access to it. This is important in the event that hackers break into the systems at the HQ in Cupertino.
Just for security reasons?
No, the iPhone also uses the TrueDepth camera to copy your facial expressions and paste them into its moving animojis, which you can then send via iMessage. Because there has never been a panda emoji that captures the feeling that you have wasted hours of your life looking for the right emoji.