What’s next for Face ID?

Iphone X is the first Ap­ple de­vice to in­cor­po­rate Face ID, but it’s a solid bet that it won’t be the last, writes Dan Moren

Macworld - - Contents -

Ahead of the iphone X’s an­nounce­ment back in Septem­ber, there had been plenty of ru­mours about it in­clud­ing bio­met­ric se­cu­rity based on fa­cial recog­ni­tion, as well as whether or not Ap­ple was strug­gling to in­cor­po­rate Touch ID into this new model. Un­sur­pris­ingly, there was a lot of hand-wring­ing over this move, with plenty of pun­dits who in­sisted that Face ID was only a sop un­til Ap­ple could fig­ure out how to in­cor­po­rate Touch ID into its new all-screen phone.

Now that the iphone X has fi­nally made its way into the world, we’ve got­ten a lit­tle more per­spec­tive on the mat­ter. Not only have we seen how Face ID is a ma­jor de­par­ture from pre­vi­ous fa­cial recog­ni­tion sys­tems, but we’ve also had Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives point out that the com­pany had long ago made the de­ci­sion to ditch Touch ID for Face ID, which we should have all log­i­cally con­sid­ered when the ru­mours were fly­ing, as the com­pany’s not go­ing to be strug­gling with de­sign de­ci­sions mere months be­fore they ship mil­lions of de­vices. But now that Face ID is about to be­come part of many of our daily lives, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing what else might be in store for this tech­nol­ogy. Be­cause if the com­pany’s mov­ing away from Touch ID in its flag­ship de­vice, you can bet that Face ID is here to stay.

More faces

As good as the early re­views say Face ID is, the tech­nol­ogy isn’t with­out its lim­i­ta­tions. Some of th­ese are on the mi­nor side: for ex­am­ple, cer­tain types of sun­glasses might not be com­pat­i­ble be­cause they block the wave­length of light needed for the in­frared-based equip­ment in the True

Depth cam­eras. Like­wise, those of us in colder climes might need to pull down our scarves in or­der for the cam­era to rec­og­nize us. Hardly deal­break­ers, but in­con­ve­niences. (Let’s not laud Touch ID and pre­tend it didn’t have its own prob­lems, or have you never had to re­train the sen­sor when your skin was too dry?)

But in one way Face ID does take a step back from Touch ID: it only sup­ports en­rolling a sin­gle face. For many peo­ple that may be no prob­lem at all, but for those users who al­low oth­ers to use their de­vice – a part­ner, child, par­ent, or so on – it can be frus­trat­ing to have to re­vert back to shar­ing a strong, pos­si­bly hard to re­mem­ber pass­code (and your pass­code is strong, right?).

Sim­i­larly, shar­ing a pass­word is a big­ger se­cu­rity risk, since it al­lows for ac­cess to many pro­tected parts of IOS that are oth­er­wise in­ac­ces­si­ble. And if you wanted to re­voke the ac­cess you’d given some­one with Touch ID, it was easy enough to re­move a fin­ger­print from the de­vice; chang­ing your pass­code is def­i­nitely more an­noy­ing.

In some ways this is easy to rec­on­cile with Ap­ple’s phi­los­o­phy – the com­pany has al­ways pushed the idea that an iphone is re­ally for a sin­gle user. (Ever tried to buy or down­load apps with mul­ti­ple itunes ac­counts?) But I’m also con­vinced that the com­pany will even­tu­ally ex­pand Face ID’S purview to han­dle dif­fer­ent peo­ple ac­cess­ing the same de­vice, for one very good rea­son.

More de­vices

Al­though the iphone X is the first Ap­ple de­vice to in­cor­po­rate Face ID, it’s a solid bet that it won’t be the last. The sim­plest rea­son is that if it does in­deed pro­vide the most re­li­able and most pow­er­ful form of bio­met­ric se­cu­rity, why re­strict it to just a sin­gle de­vice? More­over, Ap­ple would no doubt like to of­fer the fea­ture on other de­vices to al­low users to have a sin­gle au­then­ti­ca­tion method on all their de­vices.

The ipad is the most ob­vi­ous choice for the next de­vice to get Face ID, at least if it fol­lows the pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple of Touch ID. Bring­ing the sys­tem to an­other IOS de­vice ought to be rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, and Ap­ple would no doubt like to get rid of the home but­ton on its tablet and free up valu­able space there as well. (Plus, the swip­ing up ges­ture to bring up the Dock and mul­ti­task­ing in­ter­faces on the ipad in IOS 11 is al­ready rem­i­nis­cent of the iphone X’s re­place­ment for the home but­ton.)

More in­ter­est­ing, how­ever, is the Mac. Touch ID has been slow to mi­grate to the Mac, ap­pear­ing

only on the Touch Bar-en­abled Mac­book Pros. But the Touch Bar has been one of the com­pany’s less pop­u­lar fea­tures of re­cent years, and while many – my­self in­cluded – had ex­pected the com­pany might in­te­grate Touch ID into a Magic Key­board or Magic Track­pad, it cer­tainly seems plau­si­ble that the com­pany de­cided to skip that en­tirely once it had made the de­ci­sion to bet on Face ID.

And un­like IOS de­vices, Macs don’t gen­er­ally suf­fer from the same limited space or power prob­lems that Ap­ple has to bal­ance on phones and tablets. Plus it opens up a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence for us­ing Ap­ple Pay on your Mac, and let’s be hon­est: it’ll prob­a­bly be even more re­li­able than log­ging in to your Mac us­ing your Ap­ple Watch.

Both ipads and Macs are far more likely to be shared be­tween mul­ti­ple users, and Macs of course have ex­plicit sup­port for mul­ti­ple ac­counts – which, on Touch Id-en­abled Mac­book Pros, even sup­ports user-switch­ing via fin­ger­prints.

So it seems a pretty good bet that Face ID would fol­low in that fea­ture’s foot­steps. And hey, maybe it will even en­cour­age Ap­ple to ac­knowl­edge that ipads get shared be­tween dif­fer­ent users as well, and fi­nally bring the multi-user sup­port en­abled for ed­u­ca­tion into main­stream us­age, but per­haps that’s a topic for an­other day.

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