When Craig Federighi showed of Face ID at the iPhone X launch event it failed—at least at first. Apple says that’s not the case, and in fact their new facial recognition system worked exactly as it should.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone X earlier this week one of the features that got a lot of attention was Face ID, the replacement for Touch ID to unlock the phone as well as authenticate purchases and Apple Pay. When Federighi tried to demonstrate the feature the phone asked for his passcode instead of showing the Home screen, and after a second attempt he switched to a backup iPhone which worked as expected.
From the public’s standpoint that amounted to a Face ID fail and was proof Apple’s facial recognition system is a disaster. Federighi quickly recovered with a backup iPhone and continued with his demonstration, but the proclamation that Face ID is a disaster was already running like wildfire around the web.
That led to speculation ranging from Face ID is half baked, to ideas that the iPhone had been rebooted shortly before the demo, or other people had been testing the device shortly before it went on stage.
Yahoo’s David Pogue reached out to Apple to find out what really happened, and it turns out the company had an answer. After sifting through the iPhone’s log files here’s what the company had to say:
People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time and didn’t realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.
In other words, even though everyone witnessed what looked like a Face ID fail, we all say the feature working exactly as designed. Just like Touch ID requires a passcode after a few failed unlock attempts, so does Face ID.
That’s not going to stop people from saying Face ID is a failure and a dud, but it is a plausible explanation and fits with what we saw during the keynote.