I’ve been using the iPhone X for two weeks, and I would have returned it had I bought it myself.
The iPhone X has a beautiful design, a great OLED display, fast performance, and the best ecosystem of any smartphone brand.
But I can’t get used to Face ID.
Face ID uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system to scan your face and unlock your phone.
Technologically, it’s far more advanced – and supposedly more secure – than the Touch ID fingerprint sensors used in the iPhone 5s and all the way to the iPhone 8.
Practically, however, Face ID is more limited than Touch ID in my experience, and it feels like a regression.
I’ve never had to unlock an iPhone with my PIN code as often as I have with the iPhone X, despite Apple’s fancy Face ID feature. As a result, it has been a pretty frustrating experience, and I can’t wait to switch my SIM card back to my iPhone 6s Plus or the office Pixel 2 XL review unit, which I’ve been hoarding because it’s such a good phone.
Check out why I just can’t get used to Face ID on the iPhone X:
To begin with, I have to note that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like Face ID.
Several others have expressed their dissatisfaction with Face ID on Twitter:
I love my iPhone X but Face ID barely ever works me I swear
— Eugenia Cooney (@Eugenia_Cooney) February 3, 2018
FaceID is so bad for me that I see Apple prepping in-screen TouchID or putting it on the sleep/wake switch
— TechSmartt (@TechSmartt) January 27, 2018
That said, many iPhone X owners like Face ID. So, all my griping about Face ID is purely subjective.
Face ID on the iPhone X is just as magical as Windows Hello on Surface. Really great. I am totally okay with a future world without fingerprint scanners.
— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) February 5, 2018
In case you were wondering, Face ID works mid-sneeze.
— Jenna Ezarik (@jennaezarik) January 30, 2018
My main problem with Face ID:
Face ID wants my undivided attention.
This limits me to one specific action – looking at my phone directly – to unlock my phone.
Having to hold the iPhone X directly in front of my face has become an unexpected hassle, as I don’t always hold my phones to my face when I’m unlocking them. Sometimes it’s to the side on my desk; other times I may be on the couch and just want to wake the phone to check a notification without picking it up or leaning over. In fact, FaceID doesn’t work even if I lean over. I need to make a conscious effort to hover my head directly above the iPhone X, an incredibly unnatural movement. It’s minor, but it’s more effort than Touch ID ever needed.
I’ve tried turning off the “Require Attention for Face ID” option but did not notice a difference.
It doesn’t like it when my hands are close to my face.
This one is hit or miss. Sometimes Face ID will work when I’m supporting my head with my hand; other times it won’t. Face ID especially doesn’t like it when my hand covers my mouth, which I suppose is a habit of mine.
You might say “Of course Face ID won’t work if you’re covering your face,” and you’d be right. On one hand, that’s a good thing, as Face ID needs to read my facial details to be accurate. On the other, Touch ID worked regardless of my hand-to-face habits.
To be fair, Touch ID doesn’t like when your fingers are wet. But at least I rarely had to use my PIN compared with Face ID.
It’s slower overall than Touch ID, at least for now.
Face ID’s speed is sometimes comparable to the speed of Touch ID. But more often than not, it’s slower. From my experience, it’s mostly because of all the steps you need to take to use Face ID.
First, you either need to raise it to wake the screen or tap the bottom of the screen. Then you need to wait for the unlocking animation. Then you need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Touch ID, on the other hand, just needs a press of the Home Button with the built-in fingerprint sensor, and you’re at your home screen in a split second. On older iPhones, pressing the home button does the same thing in one step that Face ID does in three steps: It wakes the phone, senses your fingerprint, then unlocks your phone to the home screen.
Sometimes it just doesn’t recognise my face.
Maybe I’m moving around too much when trying to unlock the iPhone, or perhaps I’m squinting so much on a sunny day that Face ID doesn’t recognise me. Whatever the reason is, it hasn’t been as accurate as Touch ID, which doesn’t care if you’re jostling around or are making faces.
Face ID needs to get faster and more accurate, which are two things that I fully expect Apple to improve in future versions of Face ID.
Apart from speed and accuracy, Face ID needs to register faces even when they’re not looking directly at the iPhone X. But herein lies a problem: Looking directly at the iPhone X to unlock it is a necessary security feature. Otherwise, anyone could pick up your iPhone X and point it in your face’s general direction when you’re not expressly looking at it.
So, with all that in mind, the ultimate solution is to bring back Touch ID! There’s no telling whether Apple will bring fingerprint sensors back for the next iPhone. For one, any fingerprint sensor would need to be hidden under the display so an iPhone X successor can keep a bezel-less design. Hidden fingerprint sensors would also need to be almost flawless.
The technology is here, as I saw it at this year’s CES in a smartphone from the Chinese phone maker Vivo. But it’s still in its early stages, and I’d understand if Apple is waiting for the technology to improve.