Face ID: What Is It? How Does It Work?

Table of contents:

Face ID: What Is It? How Does It Work?
Face ID: What Is It? How Does It Work?

Video: Face ID: What Is It? How Does It Work?

Video: Face ID: What Is It? How Does It Work?
Video: Apple explains Face ID on iPhone X (CNET News) 2023, December

"Face ID" is a face recognition technology that replaces the fingerprint sensor as an authentication method in iPhones.

"Face ID" is Apple's catchy name for a face recognition technology. While “Touch ID” was first introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5S, Face ID was used for the first time in 2017 in the simultaneously presented iPhone X as an unlocking method. Models from 2018 also support this function as standard. Instead of placing your finger on a sensor, the front camera scans your face when you look at your iPhone and unlocks the smartphone after a positive check.

Face ID in iOS can also be used for other functions. You can use it to confirm app purchases and pay via Apple Pay by authorizing the process with your face. Alternatively, you always had to enter your Apple ID password here. Touch ID is still responsible for this on other iPhones. Third-party apps can also use the technology.

These devices support Face ID

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPad Pro (3rd generation)

(Status: 09.01.2019)

How does Face ID work?

In everyday use, Face ID is fairly simple: You look at your iPhone, the small lock symbol unlocks on the display and you can call up the home screen with a swipe gesture upwards. But how does facial recognition actually work?

Apple does not use an ordinary selfie camera to identify the face of the user. Various modules and sensors that make Face ID possible are housed in the so-called “notch”, the cut-out at the top of the display. Apple calls the entire system "TrueDepth camera system".


An IR camera first takes an infrared image. With the "dot projector" light spots (approx. 30,000) are then projected onto the face to create a kind of "depth map". The data is then processed locally using the "neural engine" in the A11 bionic processor (neural networks and algorithms). If the artificial intelligence detects a match with the facial data saved during setup, the device is unlocked. According to Apple, the likelihood that a stranger can unlock your iPhone with Face ID is 1: 1,000,000. For comparison: Touch ID comes to a value of 1: 50,000. However, the company names "genetically closely related persons" (e.g. twins) as an exception.

If you use Face ID regularly, the system also adapts to minor changes in the face. Other hairstyles, make-up, scarves, hats and glasses generally do not interfere with authentication. Since Face ID also uses an infrared sensor, the whole thing works in the dark. For example, if you shave off your full beard, the iPhone may ask you once for a confirmation by PIN.

Face ID vs. Touch ID

In a self-experiment, we tested how well Face ID really recognizes faces in different scenarios. You will also learn from us which method wins in a duel: Touch ID vs. Face ID.