Thursday, December 14, 2017

Apple’s iPhone X Review: Part 1 or Why is Face ID Better & More Secure ?


In this iPhone X review I’ll focus on some of the improvements the X brings you, over the 8, 8 Plus, and 7 Plus. Here are some of the topics in part 1 of this article:
  • iPhone X is (drum roll please)
  • Echoes of the Original iPhone
  • X Display is Great
  • About the X Display: the Technology, Size, Resolution, Color Depth, and more
  • Why is Face ID a Leap Forward in Security ?
  • App Security and Face ID
  • More Face ID FUD
  • Links to lots of other X reviews and useful stuff

When I started writing this article, in the late 60’s (seems like ages ago, but it’s only been a few weeks of any spare time I’ve had on nights and weekends) I had no idea it would turn in to over 11,000 words… and growing. I am still writing - Yikes ! When I set out on writing this, I did intend on writing it slowly over 2 or 3 weeks so I could live with the X for a while and write about what I learned. But now it’s been a whole month since I received my iPhone X. So, to keep my sanity I decided I needed to publish something, so I broke it in to 2 parts. I’ll publish part 2 soon, and I’ll continue with these topics:
  • How Apps Use the New X Features
  • New Gestures Enhance the UX
  • Notifications and Control Center
  • What’s it like Adjusting to No Home Button
  • Embracing the Notch
  • More links to more useful stuff
  • (Let’s hope more ideas don’t sneak in there)

This article is also published on LinkedIn:


Cut to the Chase ?

I thought and thought, and thought some more, about whether I should build a case first in this review, before presenting my conclusion, or just cut to the chase. I worried that if I led with my conclusion that I’d be immediately accused of being an Apple Fanboy. One who blindly and emphatically jumps to an uninformed perception that it’s great, just because Apple created it. Hey… wouldn’t be the first time :-P

But my doctor has advised me to avoid those Fanboy debates because it's bad for me.  And doc said that just counting to 10 is not going to lower my stress enough.  So... here we, go...

I finally came to the realization that it didn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter whether I made a solid case first, or not. The anti-Applers and pundits would conclude the worst, regardless of facts. So I decided, screw it. If you’re gonna be seen as a fanboy, no matter how strong your case or how you came to your conclusions, you might as well knock some bodies down with it.

Let’s not fool ourselves. The launch of the iPhone X is another major event in tech. Apple will once again change the way tech works with the iPhone X, like they did in a major way 10 years ago with the original iPhone. So there’s no sense in me holding back. And anyone who jumps to the ridiculous fanboy conclusion needs to read my last article Apple Face ID FUD or How To Tell When Someone is Clueless.  Especially the bit about “How To Spot the Clueless”. That’s right !!! I SAID it !! And I’m here ta represen-it.

And, by the by, while I can recognize greatness, I can also recognize the flaws too. And the iPhone X, while great, is not perfect.

Anyways…


iPhone X Delights

I’m going to jump to the bottom line right off the bat. The iPhone X inspires a feeling of delight. It’s a product that one can love to use. The iPhone X inspires feelings that harkens back to what I experienced when I first held the original iPhone on the day it launched - on June 29, 2007 BTW.

— YEAH, I know — Fanboy !! Look, jist !! ……. OK, I’m counting again… 1, 2, 3…..

Any hoo…

Let’s analyze that idea, of a feeling of delight. It means that using it, does not feel like work. For example, having to enter a passcode a dozen or 2 dozen times a day feels like work - compared to… well, not.

Certainly Touch ID made it way better, easier, and obviously faster to secure your phone and access it, than passcodes. But even having to use that, compared to using Face ID and the rest of the new iPhone X User eXperience (UX), is… well, fun. It’s a breeze. It’s frictionless. It’s intuitive. It flows. It just works…

In the details that follow I’ll describe lots of examples of what that all means. But, there’s nothing I can write, or say, or even demo for you, that can fully explain it to you. You have to “feel” it for yourself to truly understand it. I mean on an emotional level - which is where delight and love can be found. Not just on an analytical or logical level.

With the iPhone X and Face ID, Apple has created a UX that once again, will change the way we interact with our machines. It’s a UX that could only be created by iteratively refining it for a decade, bringing to bear the great talents for design that is uniquely Apple’s. And brought to life by an exquisitely engineered device, made possible by Apple’s ability to create everything from the silicon to the software, in ways that no one else can match.

But creating delight takes more than just time. Apple is one of the few companies that has the design chops to be capable of creating a user experience, or to look at it more broadly, a customer experience, that people love. And arguably the only company in tech that can do it so consistently. THAT’S the “secret sauce” that most other companies are missing.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball and Ben Thompson of Stratechery talk about the delight and fun of using an iPhone X in John’s Nov 10, 2017 podcast. There’s a particularly interesting conversation that you should listen to, that starts around time marker 1:00:00.

Time Magazine just named the iPhone X one of the best inventions of 2017. And Number 2 out of the Top 10 Gadgets of 2017. Time also named the original iPhone THE most influential gadget of all time.

So let’s jump into the details, starting from the atoms (the silicon) and the hardware components, working our way up to the OS software, and the apps. Creating and integrating all of these pieces, is what makes the X possible and gives Apple their huge advantage.


Echoes of the original iPhone

The iPhone X in silver brings back memories of the original iPhone. Both have shiny chrome like edges, rounded corners and curved sides. Perhaps Apple designed it that way on purpose as a way of celebrating the 10 year anniversary of a device that changed everything.

Original iPhone from 2007

I got the silver, I originally thought, because I hoped that it would look more unique than the space gray. But I really couldn’t tell from the photos on Apple’s product pages if it really did. Once I saw it in person, I knew I was right, and that the photos just can’t do the silver justice. Now, thinking back, I wonder if subconsciously I was drawn to the silver X because it is reminiscent of the original. I don’t know, but it does inspire that same delight I felt when I used the original iPhone in 2007.

The shiny silver is not where the similarities end though. The User eXperience (UX) of the X brings back the feeling of joy and fun that using the original felt like. It brings back those days when we didn’t think we needed passcodes to protect our smartphones. Before we started storing our lives on our phones. Something that the iPhone finally made easy to do.

Back then, when you picked up the original iPhone for the first time, it had this very satisfyingly fun, and insanely great UX to unlock it. The slide to unlock gesture. With it’s beautiful and elegant animations, like we had never seen before on a phone. The shimmering letters that told you “Slide to Unlock” that were animated in the direction you needed to slide the control. The smooth animation of the slider that tracked your finger perfectly. The sound of a lock, unlocking, that it made when you completed the gesture. Then finally the animation to the home screen of app icons. Back then phones just didn’t look and feel like THAT !!! It was easy. It was natural. It was fun !!! None of which I could have said about any cell phone that I had tried before then. And I had tried everything.

Original iPhone with the Slide to Unlock screen

The iPhone X brings that elegance and simplicity back, and makes it even better. To unlock the X you simply raise it up and look at it. That’s it !!! Through the magic of Face ID, it is just that simple. Then to go to the home screen you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and X animates super smoothly into the home screen, sliding the app icons into place from the edges.

So, to get into the original iPhone was a press of the power button, then a thumb swipe to the right. Now with the X, it’s just a raise up, then a thumb swipe up. But now it’s secured with your face.

Compared to using Touch ID, the X is more graceful and intuitive, and more secure. Thanks to Face ID and the new gestures on the X, accessing your X is 1 smooth motion of raise and swipe up. Then to operate the home screen or app, your thumb is already on the screen, so it’s a smoother motion to get to what you want.

For comparison, Touch ID requires you to raise up, place and press your thumb on the Touch ID sensor, then lift your thumb up and move it to the screen. This sounds like a small thing when you read it, but when you actually use the X, and you can actually experience what it’s like to use, it just feels smoother and more natural.

Ben Thompson writing at Stratechery wrote:
The trick Apple pulled, though, was going beyond that: the first time I saw notifications be hidden and then revealed (as in the GIF above) through simply a glance produced the sort of surprise-and-delight that has traditionally characterized Apple’s best products. And, to be sure, surprise-and-delight is particularly important to the iPhone X: so much is new, particularly in terms of the interaction model, that frustrations are inevitable; in that Apple’s attempt to analogize the iPhone X to the original iPhone is more about contrasts than comparisons.
And John Gruber of Daring Fireball added:
“Surprise and delight” are intangibles. You can’t measure them with a benchmark or instrument. There are contingents of hardcore power user and open source nerd types who disdain surprise and delight as product attributes — and no surprise, those are the folks who seem to be dismissing iPhone X as a cash-grab.


iPhone X Display is Insanely Good

The X display is the first iPhone to use OLED technology - Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED). Versus LCD tech, which all other iPhones use. Many competitors shipped OLED phones before Apple did. And the prevailing theory of the clueFULL, is that the reason Apple waited to ship an iPhone with OLED, was so that they could produce one that met their high standards, especially in the area of color precision. So, the OLED in the X is an Apple designed OLED. Although it’s produced by Samsung, it is NOT the same OLED in Samsung phones or any other devices that use Samsung display tech, like Google’s Pixel 2.

The Apple Watch also uses a OLED display, which helps it too, improve battery life and is why the Watch blacks are completely black, and colors are bright and vivid.

Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch:
…the OLED screen in the iPhone X makes every image look better, with more depth and color information across a broader range.
Get more info on the display on Apple’s iPhone X Design and Display product page.


Display Size is Ridiculous !!!

The iPhone X has a larger display than both the iPhone 8 (of course) and the 8 Plus on most measures. And the corresponding display specs on the 7 and 6s models too, which are the same as the 8 models. The resolution and Pixels Per Inch (PPI) on the X are bananas.

Compare physical sizes of iPhone X, 8 Plus & 8 (from left to right) with bottom of displays aligned to compare display sizes


Model Resolution PPI Display Device
~Height ~Width Diagonally Height Width Depth Weight
X 2,436 H x 1,125 W 458 5.32in / 135.1mm 2.46in / 62.4mm 5.8in / 147mm 5.65in / 143.6mm 2.79in / 0.9mm 0.30in / 7.7mm 6.14oz / 174g
7 Plus 1,920 H x 1,080 W 401 4.79in / 121.6mm 2.69in / 68.4mm 5.5in / 140mm 6.23in / 158.2mm 3.07in / 77.9mm 0.29in / 7.3mm 6.63oz / 188g
8 Plus 1,920 H x 1,080 W 401 4.79in / 121.6mm 2.69in / 68.4mm 5.5in / 140mm 6.24in / 158.4mm 3.07in / 78.1mm 0.30in / 7.5mm 7.13oz / 202g
8 1,334 H x 750 W 326 4.09in / 103.9mm 2.30in / 58.4mm 4.7in / 119mm 5.45in / 138.4mm 2.65in / 67.3mm 0.29in / 7.3mm 148g / 5.22oz


Physically the display of the X is bigger than the Plus models when measured diagonally. And the X display height is a lot taller than the Plus too, and even if you subtract the space at the top and bottom that is used for other things, it is still a little taller.

Usable Display Height for Apps

The top and bottom of the X display are reserved for system functions by some apps, and in other apps is used in special ways. At the top is the front facing TrueDepth camera, that is sometimes called the notch. While the display around the sides of the notch are sometimes called the horns or ears. At the bottom is the home indicator or bar that replaces a lot of the functionality of the Home button on previous iPhone models.

Compare pixels available on iPhone X (left) and 7 Plus (right) using Apple Maps

You can see in the screen shots above that the X, because it has more total pixels, can fit more information on the display. The screen shots contain exact pixel to pixel copies, so it compares the number of pixels on the iPhone X (left) and 7 Plus (right). This illustrates how much more pixels there are available on an X versus a 7 Plus or 8 Plus. Note that because the X has more Pixels Per Inch (PPI), and therefore has more total pixels at a higher density, these screen shots do not represent physical size, but instead compare pixel resolutions.

I did some quick and dirty measurements using the Apple Maps app to measure how much usable display height there was for apps. The X has ~121mm of usable height for apps, versus ~117mm on the 7 Plus. That excludes the space at the top of the display on the sides of TrueDepth camera, and the display space at the bottom, where the rounded corners are. Even though some of that bottom space is used in some apps, other apps have effectively reserved that space for the home indicator or bar.

The physical width of the X display is wider than the 8/7/6s non-Plus models, but a little less wide than the Plus models. But with the extra pixels on the width and the higher PPI, you actually get more pixels on the display’s width than the Plus.

Contrast and Color Depth

Because the iPhone X has an OLED display, the contrast ratio is nuts, compared to other iPhones because they have LCD displays. The OLED display in the X is capable of an insane 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. While the 8 Plus has a 1,300:1 contrast ratio. This means that the OLED display can produce richer colors and deeper blacks. This is just one of many other advantages over LCD, which include better power management because OLED pixels are individually lit so darker colors require less energy to light, and blacks require zero energy. Compare that to LCDs which use backlighting for the entire display, which lights all pixels the same. So, LCD can’t be power managed beyond display brightness.

OLED Color Shift and Burn-In

The nature of OLED display tech is such that they all have an issue with off axis viewing. In other words, if you do look at the display at an angle (off axis), rather than straight at it (on axis), an OLED display’s color will appear to shift towards the blue color spectrum. Some phones that use an OLED display suffer from such extreme color shift, like Google’s Pixel 2 XL’s OLED display problems, that they are of a sub-standard quality, because they are much worse than the standard state of the art available using LCD displays.

From The Verge The Pixel 2 XL would be the best phone in the world if its screen wasn’t so weird
Dieter thinks the Pixel 2 XL’s screen is imperfect but can be lived with; I think it’s an inexcusable disaster.
Making good hardware is, well… hard. And creating something great is nearly magic.

OLED displays can also suffer from burn-in. This can be mitigated with software. Here again is where the high end hardware and software engineering talent that Apple has and how well integrated the two are at Apple, gives them another advantage. If both are not done well, you get a disaster like the one Google suffered with the Pixel 2 XL’s OLED display which already had burn-in after only 1 week of use.

While only time can tell with OLED burn-in, John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame discussed in his Oct 26 podcast that Apple has said that they’ve tested the hell out of the iPhone X OLED display. In typical Apple secrecy style, they will not share details on how they do that. Secrecy is one of Apple’s competitive advantages, and I think it’s clear that here again, it has paid off. So I, as does John, trust Apple to get this kind of stuff more right than most other companies. Let’s put it this way: My confidence in Apple is high enough that I didn’t hesitate to pre-order another new iPhone minutes after they went on sale.

Side by Side Comparison

I compared the displays of the X side by side with the 7 Plus and 8 Plus. The X display is brighter and sharper, thanks to OLED and more pixels in less space. And the contrast of the X is off the charts, again thanks to OLED, blacks are truly black because the OLED pixels are literally not emitting any light at all. Unlike the LCD displays that are completely backlit, so the displays must block the light in order to produce black, which is never completely black and it consumes more energy. Test this out by looking at a completely black image on an LCD in a dark room - it still glows light. OLED does not.

To test the color shift inherent to OLED, I looked at the same image on both an X and an 7 Plus and 8 Plus, at maximum brightness. Then looked at the displays at multiple angles. On the X you can see a color shift to blue, that does not appear on the LCD displays of the 7 & 8. And the bigger the angle, the more blue it shifts. But to me at normal viewing angles, it was barely noticeable. You’d have to be looking for the color shift, to notice it. To clearly notice the blue shift without thinking about it, I had to angle to such an extreme that the phone was unusable. Others have reported the same experience. But for some, it was the opposite and they found the color shift noticeably annoying. If you often use your iPhone at an angle you may notice it too. So test it out yourself in an Apple store and compare.

As a perfectionist, I find the color shift unfortunate. But as a pragmatist, that realizes most decisions have trade-offs, I think the advantages of OLED far outweigh it’s disadvantages.

Your results will vary. So the best thing you could do is visit an Apple store and look at the X side by side with a 7 or 8. Make sure to use the exact same image to test with, like the default wallpaper images. And make sure the brightness is at maximum and the True Tone settings are the same, or just turn it off. True Tone will have an extremely noticeable effect on the display’s colors, and in normal use is a big improvement, but for a display comparison it best to turn it off.

Compare the Details

Check out Apple’s iPhone Compare page to get a quick view of the deets and compare the features of models side by side.


Face ID - A Leap Forward in Security

Face ID works…. Period.

Not just works. Face ID works better, is more secure, more intuitive, more natural, more reliable, and in real world use is also faster than Touch ID. The clueless were once again proven wrong.

Before I get into it, check out these: Apple Face ID FUD or How To Tell When Someone is Clueless. Apple Face ID FUD or How To Tell When Someone is Clueless.

Quoting again from Ben Thompson writing at Stratechery:
In these instances the iPhone X is reaching the very pinnacle of computing: doing a necessary job, in this case security, better than humans can. The fact that this case is security is particularly noteworthy: it has long been taken as a matter of fact that there is an inescapable trade-off between security and ease-of-use; Touch ID made it far easier to have effective security for the vast majority of situations, and Face ID makes it invisible.
Rich Mogull at TidBITS wrote:
Every year, as I travel around the security conference circuit, the hallway conversations always turn to the interesting things attendees have seen lately. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was excited about a legitimately cool security technology. I see plenty of security evolution, but not much revolution.

That is, until my iPhone X arrived on launch day, and I got to try Face ID in real-world usage. Put simply, Face ID is the most compelling advancement in security I have seen in a very long time. It’s game-changing not merely due to the raw technology, but also because of Apple’s design and implementation.
The entire Face ID UX is simple. You just look at your phone while swiping your thumb up from the bottom of the screen. One easy, natural motion. It just works.

The iPhone X knows when you are looking at it. It’s a feature called Attention Awareness, that is turned on by default. This not only makes the X UX better, it makes your phone more secure too by requiring you to look at the phone to unlock it.

Face ID is Made Possible with the New TrueDepth Camera

Another one of the revolutionary new technologies in the iPhone X is the TrueDepth Camera.

iPhone X TrueDepth Camera System

It combines a very impressive array of technologies that no other phone has. Yes, other phones have attempted to use facial recognition, but they have all failed miserably at it, until now. For example, check out Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 facial recognition can be fooled with a photo among many others that you can Google.

This is the same pattern that happened with Touch ID, and many many other Apple products and technologies. It’s a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again.
  1. Most previous attempts by other companies are awful.
  2. Apple spends a lot of time on design, User eXperience, and making it just work.
  3. Rumors buzz about what Apple is maybe working on.
  4. Anti-Apple pundits rant about how what Apple is rumored to be designing will never work, will be a flop, can’t be better, is a copy of what others have been doing, etc. etc. Apple Doom.
  5. Apple announces the tech.
  6. Apple doom sayers go extra bananas, flipping tables all over the place.
  7. Apple ships and proves them wrong.
It happened with the original iPhone in 2007. With Touch ID in 2013. Now it’s happened with Face ID.

Face ID is More Secure

According to Apple the probability that a random person could unlock your iPhone X using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000. Compared to 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID.

If you want to learn about all the reasons why Face ID is more secure, learn how it uses the TrueDepth Camera to see in the dark, map your face in tremendously detailed three dimensions, and securely store it in the A11 Bionic chip’s Secure Enclave, be sure to read over these:

No Touch ID Snags

Touch ID can have all kinds of issues that Face ID does not.

For example, I often have to unlock my iPhone while driving. Yeah, I know. When I have Apple Maps providing driving directions, Touch ID is really frustrating.

Public Service Announcement (PSA):
We do not endorse the following. Keep your eyes on the road by using Hey Siri.
Back to our regularly scheduled programing.

Maps displays driving directions on the lock screen. When I need to unlock with Touch ID, it is usually a convoluted, frustrating mess. Since I’m driving and reaching for the phone, I am naturally less precise with my interactions with the Home button. Often I’ll press the Home button, rather the just lay my finger on it. Sometimes Touch ID can’t recognize my fingerprint, because my finger is not on it just right because I am distracted with driving. Usually bringing me to someplace I didn’t intend. Sometimes I even end up pressing twice, causing Apple Pay to launch, then I have to close it. If it’s gone to sleep and turned off the display, I have to touch the Home button, sometimes causing one of the unintended things above. Almost every time it’s something.

With Face ID, it’s simpler and always does what I intended. I just raise it up while looking at it, and swipe up, and I go to the last Home screen I was on. Swiping right along the bottom let’s me swipe through the apps I last used in the order I last used them. Quick, easy, and safer than using Touch ID.

If you use a mount, Face ID and the X should also be easier and safer to use. If the X is locked, just swipe up while looking at it for a second. Boom, you’re in. And if you keep the X mounted near your driving line of sight, the whole thing is faster and safer.

One thing I have to do differently with Face ID, is this. Because of the difficulty of using Touch ID while driving, I would usually unlock the phone first, without looking at it. And taps would help me tell if and when I successfully unlocked it. But with Face ID, I have to look at it to unlock. It’s more reliable, but it’s a change in behavior that took a few days to get used to. Other then that, the other behavior changes were natural for me, and I never go reaching for a Home button out of habit.

No Failures Reading Fingerprints

No more failures because of:
  • Wet fingers.
  • Finger was not placed right.
  • Wrong finger.
  • Wrong hand.
  • Oops, I didn’t scan that finger.
  • Phone is upside down.
  • Trying to unlock it in a hurry.


Is Using Face ID Faster Than Touch ID ?

Yes.

Now I am not taking raw speeds of only pieces of the User eXperience (UX) here. What I am talking about, is what matters most - the entire UX. And the iPhone X Face ID experience feels faster, and perhaps even more important, more natural to use.

If you just look at a piece of the technology, you miss what really matters. For example, just the time it takes Face ID versus Touch ID to authenticate and unlock. In a head to head stop watch timed comparison, Touch ID is tenths of a second faster than Face ID. Check out this Tom’s Guide comparison.

This is really difficult to time, but in my attempts to compare my new iPhone X to my 7 Plus, in what were the fastest times I could get, the X took 2–3 or more tenths of a second. In real time on the fastest times I got the X down to about 1.2 seconds and the 7 Plus down to just under 0.9 seconds. But that doesn’t take into consideration the entire UX and what it “feels” like to use. Do I notice that in real world use ? Nope. And when I consider all the times that Touch ID fails for 1 of the reasons I listed above, Face ID feels faster and more reliable. And I know that it is more secure, so when consider everything that matter most, I feel better about using Face ID than I do about Touch ID.

But wait, there’s more…

Consider these observations from other writers.

Matthew Panzarino tweets and watch Matt’s video too:
This [the Tom’s Guide video in the article] misses the point of how you actually use your phone day to day. I’ve found it to be much more fluid and faster to actually ‘do things’ Turning on iPhone X is as simple as swiping up and your finger is already positioned on screen, ready to act. With Touch ID, it’s 2 actions.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame notes that Tom’s Guide is not using Face ID as it is designed to be used - You don’t treat it as an extra step. On what Tom’s Guide describes a flaw in their testing, and an alternative way to use it that they describe as a “workaround”:
This is not a “workaround”. This is how you’re supposed to unlock iPhone X. Starting with a tap of the side button is not how you’re supposed to do it — you’re creating a two-step process where you only need one. The best way to use Face ID is to pretend it isn’t even there, and just swipe up from the home indicator.

Using Face ID is More Fluid

With Touch ID you unlock by placing your finger on the Home button. Then you have to lift it up and move it to the screen to use something.

With Face ID you just look at it to unlock and swipe up on the screen to go the last place you were, and your finger is already in the screen area, ready to get something done.

It’s difficult to appreciate this difference until you have lived with an iPhone X for a while, after using Touch ID for years. And most people might never notice the contribution that this makes to the iPhone X UX. But it is a significant element of the overall X UX that makes it so much better.

App Security is Improved by Face ID

Logging securely in to apps that support Touch ID/Face ID is now a breeze. It’s nearly invisible, and completely seamless. All you do is look at your iPhone X when you launch the app, and boom, you’re in securely. Your face is your password.

Here’s how it works, in summary.

How Apple implemented this, is yet another example of Apple’s genius with UX and engineering. iOS has had APIs that apps can use to authenticate a user with Touch ID for years now. But what Apple did is built an API that generally supports biometric security. Any biometric security tech. See, they knew and planned years ago that they would improve security with something like Face ID, and built their APIs so they could support any security tech. But here’s where it gets interesting. It provides apps with support for any security tech, without requiring code changes. Apps designed to support Touch ID, just work with Face ID.

With apps that were built to support Touch ID, you just get a Face ID UX. For example, when the app logs in, instead of a prompt to place your finger on the Home button, a Face ID animation appears and you’re in. Unlike with Touch ID, you do nothing. It just works.

Face ID Authentication in the Apple Store app

I have an animation sequence that the image above was taken from, in GIF format here and in M4V format here. There is also an animation of Face ID used with Apple Pay at the bottom of the Face ID section on Apple’s iPhone X product page.

Apps can now tell if they are running on a device with Touch ID or one with Face ID, and display messaging accordingly. For example, in an app that has not yet been updated, like American Express, when you setup Face ID it uses prompts that mention Touch ID. But you just follow the same setup prompts. iOS gives you prompts to enable Face ID, where before it had Touch ID prompts.

And your Safari web browser passwords are also secured with Face ID. When you encounter a login page from a web site, the Face ID animation appears to authenticate you, and then securely retrieved your user name and password from the encrypted iCloud Keychain.

More Face ID FUD about Spoofing

Let’s clear one big thing up right off the top. No one has “hacked” Face ID nor Touch ID. A hack (Wikipedia) is when someone gains unauthorized access to data, like fingerprints or facial recognition data. What people are actually doing is trying to spoof Touch ID and Face ID. Spoofing (Wikipedia) is when someone successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, such as fingerprints or faces. There is a big difference, so if someone claims to have hacked Touch ID or Face ID, they are full of it.

I wrote a lot about the Face ID FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) being spread around in Apple Face ID FUD or How To Tell When Someone is Clueless. But the FUD continues still, and it looks all too familiar.

When Touch ID was rumored, then announced by Apple, there were tons of anti-Apple pundits that said it won’t work, it won’t be secure, doom, doom and more doom. Some of them based their judgements on the lousy implementations from other companies. Silly pundits. Haven’t they learned yet how Apple does things. Over and over again Apple hasn’t been the first to rush to ship a new technology. Instead they work and work and work some more, to make it great, innovate beyond where anyone else has, and execute better than anyone else. That’s exactly what Apple did with Touch ID, and exactly what they’ve done with Face ID too.

Then once Touch ID shipped, people tried to spoof it with all kinds of elaborate methods, and some worked, but were not simple. Eventually the brew-ha-ha died down, when it finally sunk in that Touch ID worked, and was better than anything else before it. Then competitors rushed to copy Apple.

The same cycle of things are happening with Face ID. Some of it is legit, but extreme cases and known issues. Like a 10 year old son that could unlock his mom’s iPhone X with Face ID, and twins and siblings that could both unlock an X. Those possibilities were already known and reported by Apple in Apple’s Face ID Security white paper and elsewhere. These issues can also with Touch ID, and any other competitor’s, often less capable, fingerprint and face recognition tech.

Another source claimed to have spoofed Face ID, created an elaborate mask to fool it. It appears to work, but is by no means simple nor cheap to assemble. In this MacRumor’s story, iPhone X Face ID Again Unlocked With Mask, Even With ‘Require Attention’ Turned On they discuss the range of spoofing attempts made against the iPhone X, but sum it up with this:
Apple has made several improvements to Touch ID over the years, making it faster and more accurate, and similar improvements will undoubtedly be made to Face ID in the future. In the meantime, while Face ID can be fooled by a twin or a complicated facial replication process, it’s largely secure for most users and has received mostly positive reviews for its security and ease of use.


Part 2 of this Review

Apple’s iPhone X Review: Part 2 or Why is the X User eXperience (UX) Better & Faster ?


Other Reviews and Useful Articles:

iPhone X Reviews & Tips


Face ID

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