Apple’s Craig Federighi: Uncertainty About Face ID Will ‘Melt Away’ Once People Get iPhone X

Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi today joined Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber on an episode of The Talk Show, where he likened uncertainties over Face ID to the concerns that customers expressed when Touch ID first launched in 2013 in the iPhone 5s.

Honestly, we’re just all counting the days that customers can finally get their hands on these. Because I think just like with Touch ID, initially people thought oh, ‘Apple’s done something that’s totally not going to work and I’m not a believer and I’m not gonna use this feature.’

Now everyone’s worried because they can’t imagine life without Touch ID. We’re going to see exactly the same thing with Face ID.

In a discussion that revisited the on-stage gaffe that saw Face ID fail to authenticate his face during Tuesday’s event, Federighi said he was shocked when it happened because the feature normally “just works.” He went on to say he understands the uncertainty, but that it will “melt away” once people experience the product. “You don’t even think about it,” he said.



Federighi went on to say that as much as Apple loves Touch ID, Face ID is “that much better.” He confirmed that Apple believes Face ID is the future of biometric authentication, with the caveat that there are settings where different biometric techniques or combinations of biometrics could make sense.

Much of the rest of the discussion covered the same topics that were discussed in Federighi’s earlier interview with TechCrunch. Federighi reiterated that most sunglasses work with Face ID, aside from some that have coatings that block infrared. One way around that, he says, is to turn off the “attention aware” feature that requires eye contact for Face ID to unlock.

He also explained why users need to swipe to get past the lock screen of the iPhone X, rather than it opening directly with a facial scan – it’s so you can still glimpse at the time, check your notifications, or get to the flashlight without the iPhone opening up to the Home screen. The swipe and scan are simultaneous with no real waiting period or delay.

One last little tidbit — with the feature that allows you to disable Face ID temporarily by pressing the side button and the volume buttons, it also takes a screenshot because the gestures are the same. Apple’s looking into fixing that by deleting the screenshot when a press and hold gesture is detected.

Federighi’s full interview with John Gruber can be listened to on The Talk Show.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tag: Face ID

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Apple’s Craig Federighi Answers Face ID Questions in New Interview

Face ID, Apple’s new facial recognition feature in the iPhone X, has left users with a lot of questions about how it works. While Apple has offered detailed explanations of Face ID on its website, there continue to be questions and concerns given that this is a new biometric system.

To answer some of those questions, Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi did a telephone interview with TechCrunch, where he covered topics on privacy, security, and functionality.



TechCrunch‘s Matthew Panzarino, who spoke to Federighi, says he’s heard Face ID is “incredibly reliable” and “very fast,” worth noting because many people have wondered how quickly it works.

According to Federighi, Face ID needs to see your eyes, nose, and mouth, so there are some situations where it won’t work and a passcode will need to be used instead. The limitations are similar to the limitations with Touch ID, which, for example, prevent it from being used with gloves.

“If you’re a surgeon or someone who wears a garment that covers your face, it’s not going to work,” says Federighi. “But if you’re wearing a helmet or scarf it works quite well.”

Panzarino asked Federighi to expand on how the feature works with sunglasses and whether polarization is an issue, following confirmation earlier this week that Face ID is compatible with most pairs. Federighi says polarization isn’t a problem, but there are some lenses that have a coating that blocks IR, and if that’s the case, a customer will need to use a passcode or take them off.

Face ID will work from multiple angles and distances when a device is held at a natural angle, but it needs to see your face.

“It’s quite similar to the ranges you’d be at if you put your phone in front facing camera mode [to take a picture],” says Federighi. Once your space from eyes to mouth come into view that would be the matching range – it can work at fairly extreme angles — if it’s down low because your phone is in your lap it can unlock it as long as it can see those features. Basically, If you’re using your phone across a natural series of angles it can unlock it.”

When it comes to security, Apple says that all Face ID processing is done on device with nothing uploaded to the cloud or Apple’s servers, a point Federighi reiterated in the interview. Apple collects no data when the TrueDepth camera in the iPhone X scans your face, and the feature that allows Face ID to adapt to appearance changes is done entirely on device.

“We do not gather customer data when you enroll in Face ID, it stays on your device, we do not send it to the cloud for training data,” he said.

When it comes to law enforcement requests for Face ID data, Apple has no data to provide. Your Face ID scan is converted into a mathematical model in the Secure Enclave on the iPhone X, and it can’t be reverse engineered back into a face. As with Touch ID, none of that data is ever sent to Apple. Third-party developers don’t have access, either.

Federighi also expanded a bit on the method Apple implemented to discretely disable Face ID in a situation where someone might steal your phone and attempt to unlock it with your face. On the iPhone X, holding down on the buttons on either side of the device goes to the power down screen, which also disables Face ID. If someone demands your phone, squeeze the buttons to disable Face ID, Federighi suggests.

Face ID will also disable itself after five failed attempts at recognition. Earlier this week, Apple documentation suggested it would be disabled after two failed recognition attempts, but Federighi has clarified that it’s five, just like Touch ID. Apple’s documentation has now been updated accordingly. Also, when the iPhone reboots or Face ID hasn’t been used in 48 hours, a passcode will be required. Additionally, if you haven’t entered a passcode for 6.5 days and Face ID hasn’t been used in the last four hours, Face ID will also be disabled until a passcode is entered.

Federighi’s full interview, which includes more details on how Apple trained Face ID and how it works, can be read over at TechCrunch.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tag: Face ID

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Interview: Apple’s Craig Federighi answers some burning questions about Face ID

 Face ID is easily the most hot-button topic to come out of Apple’s iPhone event this week, notch be damned. As people have parsed just how serious Apple is about it, questions have rightly begun to be raised about its effectiveness, security and creation. To get some answers, I hopped on the phone with Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi. Read More

Conan jabs at the new iPhone’s facial recognition system

 The facial recognition system built into the iPhone X raises plenty of questions. Can I fool it with a photo? (No.) Will it work if I’m sleeping and someone puts my iPhone up to my face? (It shouldn’t, unless you sleep with your eyes open.)
Who better than Apple’s Craig Federighi to answer all these burning questions? No one — no one except for a fake Craig Federighi… Read More

Senator Franken asks Apple for privacy guarantees around Face ID data

 A friendly letter from Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to Apple requests that the latter provide a few more details on the tech behind its Face ID system, which allows users to unlock their iPhone X using facial recognition. It’s very far from a nastygram; the Senator pretty clearly just wants to cover a bit more ground than Apple had time for in its presentation yesterday. Read More

Doubts and Speculation Surround Apple’s Onstage Face ID ‘Fail’ During iPhone X Keynote

Yesterday at a media event held in Apple Park, Apple announced its much-anticipated all-screen 5.8-inch iPhone X, which features a next-generation facial authentication system called Face ID for unlocking the smartphone in lieu of a home button with Touch ID.

During the keynote at the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi took to the stage to demo Face ID. However, much to his chagrin, the facial recognition technology appeared to fail at his first attempt to unlock the iPhone X, forcing Federighi to switch to a backup device to get the demo moving.



Some observers have leapt on the moment as an indication that Face ID is unreliable or a yet-to-be-perfected technology that’s unfit to replace Touch ID fingerprint authentication. Vice News even went so far as to link the onstage incident to a sudden drop in Apple’s share price. Since the demo aired, however, three competing theories have been put forward to explain the apparent “failure”.

One theory is that Apple has adopted the same reboot security measure on the iPhone X that is found on iPhones with Touch ID, and this is what stalled Federighi’s Face ID demo. The moment when he tries to unlock the iPhone X with his face, a closer look at the presentation screen reveals the words “Your passcode is required to enable Face ID”. As several contributors on Quora have pointed out, a similar message is seen when an iPhone with Touch ID is first switched on, or if the phone hasn’t been used in the last 48 hours.

This suggests someone forgot to enter the passcode on Federighi’s iPhone X after a reboot. But if that were the case, the message likely should have stated, “Face ID requires your passcode when iPhone restarts”, which more accurately reflects the equivalent message Touch ID phones display after a reboot.



Another theory put forward is that several unsuccessful attempts had already been made to unlock the device prior to the onstage demo, since Federighi only tries to authenticate Face ID twice before the passcode screen appears, whereas Touch ID takes five consecutive failed attempts before requiring a passcode. It’s possible, but unlikely, and doesn’t really explain the two failed tries witnessed by the audience.

The third, more concerning explanation, of course, is that Face ID simply failed to recognize the Apple executive, suggesting the feature has accuracy issues that the company is still working to resolve. Indeed, while Face ID was generally lauded by the media during hands-on iPhone X demonstrations after the keynote, at least one journalist reported “plenty of missed unlocks“, and even problems activating Face ID that were only resolved after repeatedly turning the display off and on again, which they called “a little worrying”. A similar issue may have befell Federighi on stage.

Apple claims Face ID can recognize a user’s face under a variety of conditions and in poor light, despite everyday changes in appearance, such as applied make-up or beard growth. It is also said to boast a mismatch error rate of 1 in 1,000,000, compared to 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID, thanks to multiple neural networks built into the iPhone X’s dual-core A11 bionic neural engine. With the iPhone X officially up for pre-order on October 27, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iPhone X
Tag: Face ID

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Face ID will work with Apple Pay, third-party apps

 Goodbye fingers, hello faces. With the introduction of Face ID, and the removal of the Touch ID button, Apple today confirmed speculation about its next generation of on-device authentication when it comes to paying for things: You will now be able to buy goods using your new iPhone X, authenticating your identity with facial recognition. Apple detailed the new iPhone X on stage today at the… Read More

Face ID will work with Apple Pay, third-party apps

 Goodbye fingers, hello faces. With the introduction of Face ID, and the removal of the Touch ID button, Apple today confirmed speculation about its next generation of on-device authentication when it comes to paying for things: You will now be able to buy goods using your new iPhone X, authenticating your identity with facial recognition. Apple detailed the new iPhone X on stage today at the… Read More