The iPhone X‘s full-screen display may be the first thing you notice about the new device, but Apple’s upgraded front-facing camera deserves your attention, too. Maybe even more so.
The iPhone X features a new TrueDepth camera
Apple is using the iPhone X to usher out the fingerprint-scanning standard it introduced with Touch ID and replacing it with face-scanning technology instead. Face ID is more secure (at least according to Apple) and it brings some cool new features to the $1579 smartphone, alongside the privacy concerns you’d expect to accompany face-scanning technology. Here’s what you need to know.
How it works
Face ID is powered by a new TrueDepth camera system that packs a ton of technology into the small strip at the top of the screen. That includes a regular front-facing camera, an infrared camera, a dot projector, a flood illuminator, a proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor.
Whenever you look at your phone, the flood illuminator detects your face. Then the infrared camera takes an IR image and the dot projector uses over 30,000 IR dots to create a dot pattern. Both sets of data are sent to the iPhone’s new A11 Bionic chip, which uses a neural network trained with over a billion images to compare it to a mathematical model of your face already stored on the device.
Face ID on the iPhone X
This should all happen quickly and seamlessly, according to Apple. The entire process is meant to be invisible to the human eye and it works in the dark.
It’s worth noting, though, that Face ID could be a little buggy at first, and Apple actually struggled to use it at one point during today’s event. To be fair, Touch ID improved over time, and Face ID will probably do the same. But you may be taking a bit of the risk if you make the switch this year by picking up an iPhone X the second it becomes available.
Better security than Touch ID
The biggest reason to use Face ID may be the possible increase to your security. Touch ID hasn’t exactly proven to be hacker-proof, and Apple says its face scanning tech is a big improvement. Only one in one million people will be able to spoof your device using Face ID, according to Apple, while for Touch ID, that number was one in 50,000.
As with Touch ID, all your Face ID data is stored locally on a secure section of the A11 processor. That means it’s not being transferred to Apple’s servers where it could be targeted by hackers.
Apple also noted that you can’t fool Face ID with a picture or a mask. The company even trained its new software with some freakishly realistic masks just to be sure.
Touch ID can’t be fooled by a mask. Even a freakishly realistic one.
Augmented reality and other features
The same sensors that power Face ID will also support some interesting new features, especially when it comes to augmented reality. Snapchat is already developing new filters that use the TrueDepth system, such as this face paint mask that syncs perfectly with your facial movements.
Snapchat on the iPhone X
Apple also showed off Animoji, a new feature for Messages that lets you record video messages as one of 12 different emoji (yes, the poop emoji is included). It’s a fun new feature, and a good example of what’s possible thanks to Face ID.
Animoji on the iPhone X
For now, these new features may feel more like gimmicks, but if Apple opens up its Face ID technology to outside developers the possibilities could be endless.
First, the company just needs to prove that its face-scanning system is good enough to replace the fingerprint scanners we’ve all come to rely on.