Face ID Explained- Is it better than Touch ID?

by Mayank

Face ID is the successor to the Touch ID, which was considered to be one of the most reliable authentication systems on smartphones and tablets. Just as Touch ID uses fingerprint data to unlock your Apple device, Face ID uses facial recognition to unlock your iPhone or iPad. Apple has replaced Touch ID with Face ID after it released the iPhone X back in September 2017. Face ID is now available on iPhones-X, XR, XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, as well as second and third generation iPads.

You can use the Face ID to approve purchases on the iTunes Store , App Store, Apple Books & Apple Pay. iOS developers can also add Face ID to sign-in functionality on their apps. Apps which support the Touch ID also support the Face ID.

Technology Behind Face ID

As Apple states on their official website:

“Face ID provides intuitive and secure authentication enabled by the state-of-the-art TrueDepth camera system with advanced technologies to accurately map the geometry of your face.”

The Face ID hardware (which is present within the big notch you see on the newer iPhones and iPads) consists of three modules- Dot projecter, Flood Illuminator & an Infrared Camera

The dot projector projects a grid of more than 30,000 small infrared dots of your face and the flood illuminator reads the resulting pattern to create a 3D face map. The infrared camera simultaneously captures an infrared image of your face.The neural engine present in the Apple Bionic chips (A11, A12, A12X & A13 Bionic) then transforms the 3D map and the infrared image into mathematical representations. These mathematical representations are then compared with the enrolled face data. The neural engine is protected within the Secure Enclave for safety purposes. The whole system is called the “TrueDepth Camera System.”

Face ID unveiled during the September 2017 iPhone X launch event

TThanks to the neural engine, using machine learning algorithms, the Face ID automatically adapts to changes in appearance, such as when you’re wearing makeup or when you’ve grown facial hair. Face ID also works if you wear hats, glasses, scarves, etc. Although, for significant changes in your appearance, you will need a passcode to unlock your iPhone or iPad. Face ID works both in bright sunlight and in complete darkness.

The Face ID will be activated when you raise your phone or tap the screen. You don’t need to hold your iPhone in your hands to use the Face ID, you can also unlock your device when it’s on a flat surface. The basic requirement is that the sensor should clearly be able to see your face.

Security & Privacy Features

  • The Face ID data is encrypted with a key that is only available to the Secure Enclave. This data is constantly updated to record changes in your appearance. This data is used to train the neural network to enhance your experience.
  • The Face ID data does not leave your device and is not backed up to the iCloud. Supported applications that use the Face ID for authentication will only be notified as to whether the login has been successful. Apps can not access the Face ID data associated with your enrolled face.
  • Apple claims that the probability that a random person in the population can unlock your iPhone or iPad is about 1 in 1,000,000. In addition, the Face ID allows only 5 unsuccessful unlock attempts. After a bunch of attempts, a passcode is needed to unlock your device.
  • Also, if a close match to your face is found, a passcode will still be needed to unlock the device, and this unlock attempt will be registered in the neural engine to help train the neural network to be more secure.
  • Thanks to the TrueDepth camera system that draws a 3D image of your face, the Face ID can not be spoofed with your photographs or masks.
  • The Face ID is also attention-aware, which means that your iPhone or iPad will not unlock when your eyes are closed as you sleep. So, without your knowledge, your girlfriend won’t be able to unlock your device. Phew!
  • Also, if your Apple device is lost or stolen, you can use the Find My iPhone feature to block the use of Face ID.
  • Apple also claims that its TrueDepth camera system has tamper-detection features, which means that the Face ID will be disabled automatically if the system detects some kind of hardware tampering.

Face ID vs. Touch ID- Which one’s better?

Many of you might argue that Touch ID was a much faster and more secure solution than Face ID, and you’re not wrong. If the raw speed to unlock your iPhone or iPad is considered, yes, the Touch ID is much faster. But if you compare the security, Face ID is better anyday. In addition, the Face ID has been significantly optimized for speed since its first release. Face ID also provides some extra features that Apple users seem to love, such as Animojis and the attention-aware feature that dims the display when you’re not looking at the screen, and also turns the screen off if you’re not looking at the screen for a long time.

Animoji is one of the most loved features on iPhones

So, if you don’t mind the big notch, the Face ID is all good for you. You can still get Touch ID on iPhone along with the latest features-Remember the 400$ iPhone SE (2020) that was launched earlier this year. Whatever the case may be, we ‘re not expecting Apple to bring the Touch ID back to its flagship iPhones ever in the future, so you have to stick with the Face ID whether you like it or not.

So, which iPhone are you using everyday? Comment below and let me know.

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