Why Face ID makes se­cu­rity in­vis­i­ble

Ja­son Snell looks at why the fea­ture will have the big­gest im­pact

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

There are a lot of new fea­tures and changes rolled into the iPhone X. But after us­ing the de­vice for a few days, the one that I think will make the big­gest im­pact on the way we use our iPhones day-to­day is def­i­nitely Face ID. It’s a huge fea­ture that takes ad­van­tage of ground­work Ap­ple has been lay­ing for some time in iOS, but in the end it will tri­umph in­vis­i­bly.

Face ID changes the game by sep­a­rat­ing the act of un­lock­ing iPhone from phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tions with the phone’s screen or but­tons. Put to­gether with the Raise to Wake fea­ture in­tro­duced with iOS 10, the nat­u­ral act of lift­ing the iPhone X and glanc­ing at it per­forms two tasks that used to re­quire in­ter­ac­tion: wak­ing up the de­vice and un­lock­ing it. When I pull the iPhone X out of my pocket and look at it, it’s al­ready on and unlocked. I can de­cide what to do next.

This adds a new di­men­sion to how I can use the iPhone X. Pre­vi­ously, when I looked at the lock screen of my iPhone, I could see my no­ti­fi­ca­tions, or swipe to ac­cess wid­gets or the cam­era con­trols. But in­ter­act­ing with no­ti­fi­ca­tion bub­bles, Siri, wid­gets, and the photo li­brary (via the cam­era app) were nec­es­sar­ily con­strained by se­cu­rity con­cerns. Tap­ping on a no­ti­fi­ca­tion bub­ble or in­ter­act­ing with wid­gets will of­ten re­quire you to un­lock the phone be­fore con­tin­u­ing.

With Face ID, all those bar­ri­ers van­ish. No­ti­fi­ca­tions open the rel­e­vant apps au­to­mat­i­cally. The cam­era short­cut pro­vides you with ac­cess to your en­tire photo li­brary. Siri has ac­cess to all your data. And all with­out hav­ing to take any ad­di­tional steps to au­then­ti­cate, be­cause the au­then­ti­ca­tion has al­ready hap­pened while you were see­ing what was on the screen.

No more bad habits

I’ll be hon­est: the com­bi­na­tion of the Touch ID sen­sor with the iPhone’s home but­ton led me to bad be­hav­iour. My habit was al­ways to lay my thumb on the sen­sor and then push the but­ton, a com­bi­na­tion that

in­vari­ably led me to un­lock the phone and send it to the home screen. The idea of gently lay­ing my thumb on the home but­ton and then tak­ing it off in or­der to browse no­ti­fi­ca­tions rarely, if ever, oc­curred to me.

This is not to say that I didn’t fre­quently pick my phone up just to check some­thing on the lock screen. I’d do that too, to check the time or see if some­thing big ap­peared in my no­ti­fi­ca­tions. But when I’d do this, I’d keep my thumb en­tirely off the home but­ton. Then if there was a no­ti­fi­ca­tion I wanted to tap on, I’d need to move my thumb to au­then­ti­cate be­fore con­tin­u­ing.

Face ID elim­i­nates all th­ese is­sues. When I pick up my phone, it’s on and unlocked. I can read no­ti­fi­ca­tions and tap, or swipe up to re­turn to the cur­rently ac­tive app. That’s why ar­ti­cles like this one by Mark Spoonauer at Tom’s Guide miss the larger point. Face ID may not be as fast as Touch ID in the sin­gu­lar act of un­lock­ing the phone (though I’ve never re­ally felt that Face ID was

slow at all), but Face ID makes the act of un­lock­ing the phone largely an af­ter­thought.

Face ID takes a multi-step process and elim­i­nates it en­tirely. When I take the iPhone X out of my pocket, I’m not pre­par­ing to move through a multi-step un­lock­ing process. In­stead, I’m con­sid­er­ing what I want to do: glanc­ing at the screen to see if there are any no­ti­fi­ca­tions, or swip­ing to wid­gets or the cam­era, or wip­ing up to go back to my most re­cent app. The un­lock­ing step just dis­ap­pears.

This hap­pens in third-party apps, too. Open­ing 1Pass­word, or my home se­cu­rity video app, or my bank­ing app, no longer re­quires a mode shift where I need to move my thumb onto the home but­ton in or­der to au­then­ti­cate. It’s not that mov­ing my thumb a few inches was a huge im­po­si­tion, so much as it re­quires a break in con­cen­tra­tion to do a lit­tle bit of book­keep­ing in or­der to get me where I wanted to go. With Face ID, I just go where I wanted to go all along, no read­just­ment re­quired.

Touch ID is a fea­ture that makes it eas­ier to un­lock your phone; Face ID is a fea­ture that makes you for­get you need to un­lock your phone. In fact, there’s al­most no point in try­ing to quan­tify how fast Face ID is when com­pared to Touch ID. How fast does it take to do noth­ing? The an­swer, you’ll find, is no time at all.

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