Face ID – Is it really better than Touch ID?

iPhone X Face ID

Facial recognition (or Face ID) has been used on many occasions in the past on various types of devices with varying levels of success. However, in the past, it has mostly come across as one of the less secure and inefficient methods of securing a personal device.

In a spectacular turn of events, we have seen Apple jump aboard the largely unsuccessful train with the hope to turn it into a secure, fast and efficient form of authentication. The main question that arises is, is it too soon to drop the highly successful and affordable fingerprint technology entirely and replace it with a technology that brings more skepticism than trust? Let’s find out!

How does Apple’s Face ID scanning work?

Apple uses 3D facial recognition on its iPhone X smartphone which is opposite to the 2D facial recognition that is so often seen on many older devices. Inside the unsightly notch on the front of the device are a variety of sensors that are the backbone of the new Face ID feature.

The True Depth camera system is aided by the proximity and ambient light sensor in identifying the light required for the face recognition to work before the Infrared light is used to improve the illumination further (this light is invisible to the naked eye).


iPhoneX Face ID

Next, the dot projector produces over 30,000 dots of infrared light to create a 3D map of your face before the infrared camera and then captures an image of this dot pattern reflected off your face sending it to the ‘Neural Engine’.

The A11 Bionic chip then comes into play comparing the patterns and calculating their similarity. They are given a comparison score to dictate whether they are similar enough to be matched. The phone can then unlock.

Fingerprint scanners are quick and easy to use but have a major problem, many sensors cannot be used when the person’s finger is wet, or if the person is wearing gloves. What this means is that in such situations, they are practically useless.

Face ID, on the other hand, can be used even when your face is wet and is not impacted by gloves. The next issue that arises is, is it quick enough? Fingerprint sensors are unlocking phones in less than half a second so it’s difficult to compare them speed wise. Face ID is quick, but just not as quick as fingerprint authentication which over time has been optimized and constantly improved to reach the level it is on at the moment.

Apple took a huge gamble replacing Touch ID with Face ID and in the long run, they should be able to justify this by improving the technology even further. At the moment, I would not say it is the best time to remove Touch ID altogether since it is still such a quick and efficient method used to unlock devices.

Authentication by iPhone X Face ID

While there is the benefit of being able to use Face ID when you cannot scan your fingerprint, the amount of time it takes to enter a pin/ password is still short enough to reduce the need for a Face ID unlock. In my opinion Apple did pick a great time to introduce Facial recognition for unlocking their phones, however, they should have implemented it in a similar way to iris scanning on Samsung devices, as an extra layer of security for the occasions fingerprint authentication is not viable.

This way they can improve the technology even further before they implement it in a way that it replaces an already very good authentication technique with one that closely rivals or even trumps it. Apple’s decision to use Face ID is positive but the fact that it completely replaces fingerprint authentication is its main drawback.

Do you agree with my opinion? Is Facial ID unsafe? Let us know your views in the comments section below. 

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​16 year old A-Level Student in the Seychelles. Huge fan of all things tech and a football player in the Seychelles First Division in the under 21 age group