Face ID: First-ever face recognition that works



After so many unexpected gripes, we’re glad we can finally move on to something Apple has managed to get just right, and that is Face ID – the new biometric authentication method on the iPhone X. It’s here to replace Touch ID fingerprint authentication, which was nearly flawless and almost universally beloved, so as you can imagine, Face ID has some really big shoes to fill in terms of reliability and convenience. Even more so when it seems to be the primary reason for having the notch.

Face ID is extremely easy to use, and you get to set it up during the initial setup process of the phone. This is the idea in short: using some really sophisticated technology, the iPhone X scans your face, creates a detailed 3D depth map of it, which it then stores securely somewhere deep inside the chips of the phone – even Apple doesn’t get to see this data. The great thing about it is that the phone builds three-dimensional face recognition data – it can tell that it's you even if it sees you from an angle – you don’t have to look at it head-on in order to get a successful authentication.

Face recognition may sound familiar to many, as Samsung has been offering this feature, along with iris scanning, on its top smartphones for some time now. However, neither face recognition, nor iris scanning on Galaxy smartphones meet any acceptable standards for reliability or convenience. They simply don’t work well, if at all. Apple's Face ID works in a completely different way and manages to fill the role of a reliable authentication method in the day-to-day without causing almost any frustration.


Face ID definitely isn't flawless yet, but it’s veeery close to that forgotten Apple mantra of “it just works”. The idea is simple: you lift your phone and it automatically wakes up (or you tap the screen), the phone engages facial recognition and recognizes its beloved owner, and then all you need to do is just swipe up to enter the home screen. In theory, the facial recognition stage should happen in under a second and be almost invisible. In practice, this almost always happens to be the case.

At this point, Face ID is so great that you can realistically expect to lift your phone, swipe up, and enter the home screen, with barely a glance of the lock screen as you get immediately authenticated. This is a very realistic scenario. It really works… most of the time. We feel that Touch ID is still the slightly more infallible feature of the two, but Face ID is very, very close, and it also feels a bit more effortless than using Touch ID.

Face ID can sometimes fail to authenticate you if you happen to look at the phone from a somewhat weird angle, or from way too far, or way too close.

An annoying thing that sometimes happens when the phone fails to recognize you, is that it doesn't proceed to try again a second time immediately after that – so even if you're quick to adjust its position to a better one – it has already given up trying, at which point you need to either enter your PIN, or go back and try again. Other times, Face ID takes an extra half-second to recognize you, and those times can be a somewhat annoying, especially if you’re in a hurry and you need it to just work, but we guess that with a bit of getting used to, those occasions will automatically get reduced to a minimum. Face ID is a great first-gen product, and we imagine it's going to get even better with updates and improvements in the future.

Face ID summary: Apple has created the first ever secure, reliable, and convenient facial recognition system in a smartphone. It works almost flawlessly, in any lighting conditions. It doesn’t care if you’re attempting to unlock your iPhone X in a completely dark room, for example – it’ll know it's you and unlock the phone in zero time. Is it better than Touch ID? Sometimes not, but most of the time – it's equally great, and that's something to be excited about.

iOS 11 and new gesture interactions

Swipe up, swipe down, wait a minute – why is this chicken imitating me?


Without a home button, how do you even make your way around iOS 11? It’s actually quite easy – instead of pressing a home button, you’ll be swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen. This gesture is essentially analogous to a home button press. It works quite well. However, we’ve already been using this same gesture on other iPhones, but to accomplish a different task: to bring up Control Center.

iOS 11 on the iPhone X works a bit differently than on other iPhones. Most notably, you get to the Control Center after a swipe-down form the upper-right corner of the screen; while swiping down from the upper center or upper left will bring down the notification area. There is another, probably weirder difference from the standard iOS experience on, say, the iPhone 8: on the lock screen of the X, you have two additional 3D Touch-able shortcuts: for torchlight and for camera. Strangely enough, the swipe-left on the lockscreen takes you to the camera as well (as is the case with other iPhones). Why do we need two different camera shortcuts on the lockscreen of the X, any why there’s no torchlight shortcut on the iPhone 8, 7, and 6s, all of which have 3D Touch – we have no idea.

With no home button, accessing the multitasking view is also different. You need to swipe up from the bottom again, but this time hold your finger for half a second in the center of the screen – and voila, you are in multitasking. It’s also possible to quickly switch between apps by swiping left and right across the lower edge of the screen. This also reminds us of the new Reachability shortcut – you just need to slide you finger down the bottom section of the display. Imagine the app dock – lowest row of icons on the home screen. You have to swipe down from about half the height of the app dock, in order to engage Reachability; that is, if you ever happen to use this feature.

Other than that, iOS 11 on the iPhone X is mostly iOS as we know it, complete with a bunch of new, average-looking wallpapers and an absurd lock sound.

Despite some of these peculiarities, iOS 11 continues to be the world’s premium mobile operating system, with unsurpassed performance, visual fidelity, and added-value features. These include the brand new, curated App Store, which is better than ever in helping you discover great apps and games every day; as well as support for forward-looking technologies like Augmented Reality; and of course, Apple’s complete range of productivity and lifestyle apps, including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Photos, iMovie, GarageBand, and more.

One notable unique feature on the iPhone X is Animoji, which runs inside iMessage. Animoji uses the power of the TrueDepth camera system (the notch thingy) to translate your own facial movements to a selection of sweet 3D characters, including a chicken, pig, fox, dog, and panda. You can use this to record fun little video messages, and you can even save them as video clips that you can then share any way you like. Animojis are, of course, fun for a while, but we're yet to see if they'll stick.

iOS 11 takeaway: The user experience on the iPhone X takes a bit of getting used to, mostly because of the new gesture-based interactions. However, after the initial learning period, using the iPhone X quickly becomes natural and effortless, perhaps even a bit nicer than the traditional iPhone experience we all know.


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163 Comments

171. jamal1001

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 30, 2018

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169. Kashton

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 31, 2018

I basically had already made my mind up that I was just going to stick with my iPhone 8 my exclusive 4.7 inch design and display that I’ve exclusively used since day 1 of the iPhone 6. In fact had Apple not changed that design I would have been perfectly fine. I loved the second gen Touch ID and of course I found the regular iPhone 8s smaller design to be the perfection of what a smartphone should be. You have a easy to use, carry around, one handed phone that still allowed you to consume media or read articles browsing the web. Zero complaints. So I really never bought in on the hype surrounding the iPhone X or 10 rather. Then came release day which I ignored. Then I was signing up for Xfinity internet and cable one day right around the launch of the 10. They gave me information about their new mobile side that they were offering to existing customers and then offered me a nice money Visa card to sign up so I took the special offer and then all the sudden I found myself having this new found interest in the iPhone 10. I finally was able to get one with Xfinity after a month and half of solid trouble and a huge mess I suppose since they were a new mobile company. I can tell you I’ve not touched my iPhone 8 since the day my 10 arrived and had I not actually experienced the 10 there would be no way to ever convince me that it would totally become my favorite iPhone to date. As for the reoccurring mentioning of the notch in this article unless you’ve not actually used a 10 on a daily basis I feel like you’re really not entitled to say the notch ruined the 10 when in fact it simply hardly made any negative user experience. Sure I noticed the first day or two but seriously anyone who’s used the 10 day in day out 99 percent of those users would tell you the notch really isn’t a big deal to them and I’m the exact same so I feel as if this article was written by someone who might have used the 10 for a day or a few hours then wrote the article because the entire article was simply created and based off the notch at the top of the iPhone 10s display. I don’t in any way what so ever even care nor do I view content on my 10 in full screen mode and not once have I ever thought to myself that I hate that notch and it’s becuase like the majority of other 10 users out there do. They and I just really don’t even see it because it’s simply not big enough to in the slightest ruin any type of media consumption as this articles states over and over until the last summary even. So I recommend that any writer which I write professionally myself, actually personally use the product I’m which they write about then the article will in fact become actually credible. That’s why as a writer and reviewer that I must personally myself use the product if I’m going to actually review and write about it. So to summarize, the iPhone 10 is simply amazing and is the perfect blend of screen size and perfect one handed form factor packed all into one device.

162. lightyears

Posts: 69; Member since: Aug 24, 2015

Whoever launch their phone, the clear winner of this season is undoubtedly S8 and Note8. They are still the phones to beat.

160. lightyears

Posts: 69; Member since: Aug 24, 2015

The insecurity of Face ID already exposed. Speakers are excellent is a joke. Exciting new form factor? good joke. Apple could have done much better but lost the opportunity.

159. Sotikon

Posts: 27; Member since: Aug 23, 2017

It’s a shame Google’s new Pixel line did not get a higher score than Apple’s gang of products this year. Proves how bias writers on here are.

158. GrosseFatigue

Posts: 211; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

And it still managed to get a 9 to Samsung Note 8 8.9. This place has 20 years reviewers who grew up with Apple. They never understood the Note. Now all flagship screens are 6".

157. GrosseFatigue

Posts: 211; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

I look at this ugly duck and his uglier brother the 8 and what it tells me is that the Note 8 is cosmetically exceptional and underrated by comparison. The Note 8 is a mature product, a work of art. The screen of the X is not even working properly. Apple is a good one generation behind Samsung in smartphones design. Wait until we read everywhere that it brakes all the time.

153. androiduser

Posts: 575; Member since: Jun 18, 2014

the iphone x 64gb starts at 1800 dollars in my country

149. hellhr

Posts: 41; Member since: Feb 25, 2016

I am not happy with that screen, regarding black bar and color shift from angle... Heck, even Apple didn customise native aplications for new screen format. Go figure

148. RiyaJain

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 10, 2017

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147. jackyhao78

Posts: 3; Member since: Nov 01, 2017

iPhone X (iPhone 10) with a slim 5″8 inch OLED screen, FaceID 3D recognition, chip Bionic A11, the camera supports Portrait mode both before and after, the frame around the body of Iphone X is made of polished metal, wireless charging QI. Great!

145. Diego!

Posts: 880; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

OMG... I'm shocked... iPhoneArena.com rated iPhone X (10) with a 9. This is too much. The end of an affair? What happened?? xD xD

144. tedkord

Posts: 17529; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

"DESIGN TAKEAWAY: The iPhone X is nice, but the notch prevents it from being a work of art. It is by and large a utilitarian design in a contemporary, premium package. Even with the Galaxy S8 being a six-month old device at this point, the iPhone X feels more like a gap-closer than anything else – it fails to convince it was worth all the wait." Score:9 Nine is the floor of the curve on which Ray grades iPhones.

143. techbuttcheex

Posts: 205; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

Isn’t amazing how the Galaxy S6 had better color accuracy? Lol. Apple is the biggest failure in the industry.

142. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Wow , no con on price. No con on how easy the screen will crack. No con on things taken away. No con on notch. And why did you delete posts iPA

140. Spedez

Posts: 542; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

Hmm, a fair iPhone score. Peculiar...

137. RoyalMike unregistered

The swipe ruins the phone, they could easily add an always on 3d touch home button like Samsung did in S8.

134. Bozzor

Posts: 248; Member since: May 02, 2012

A 9.5 score is too high for the phone at this point, simply because the apps are not optimized and - let's face it - there has to be some sense of value. $1,000 has to demand incredibly strong performance across the board. Apple comes close, but the lack of optimized apps is a big limiting factor at this time. That will change over the next few months though...

132. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

125. ColinW

Posts: 413; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

If you look back over past Phone Arena reviews there has been strong criticism of many aspects of non-iPhones, that are ignored in iPhone reviews. One that particularly comes to mind here is the operating system itself. It is not easy to use anymore, not consistent across its range, the apps are not optimized for the screen and RAM management is awful as demonstrated by the may "real world" speed tests. Add to the fact that there is still no expandable storage or adequate upgrade options (no 128gb), inferior wireless charging and waterproofing, no fast charger in the box, the camera bump is simply bad design and not to forget all the new iPhones are the most fragile yet. For a phone that is mainly a "catch-up" addition compared to its peers overall, it is far from revolutionary either. A score of 9 is extremely generous and reflects the Apple bias which sadly does exist on PA.

121. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Right below title "AN IPHONE X-PERIMENT" TEN-PERIMENT? /s

116. Luuthian

Posts: 332; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

This seems like one of the fairer reviews I've seen for sure. I tried the X in store and even though i had only a few moments with it I'd agree with most of the conclusions presented. Good write up. Shame Apple is charging customers $1000 to essentially beta test the future though... I'll be grabbing an iPhone 8 in Dec probably. The future can wait IMO.

106. ImperialDynamics

Posts: 84; Member since: Nov 30, 2012

benchmarks are not the whole story. Performance in practice is more important. For example the Note 8 has better performance in practice than the iPhoneX ( proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-Vn0h8Wfo0 ). And the Note 8 is not even the fastest Android. That title now belongs to the Razer Phone. Speaking of the Razer Phone, that also surely beats the iPhoneX when it cames to speaker quality so consider removing the "best in class speakers" from the pros list above.

104. wando77

Posts: 1172; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

The iris scanner on my note 8 works fast andperfect....... (even in the dark or with my oakley sunglasses with purple lenses). Maybe it's cause you have specs??.....samsung mentions it doesn't work with those

103. midan

Posts: 3272; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

First time ever i have difficulties to pick a colour. I always choose black and in my opinion all tech and gadgets looks best in black. Ordered space gray when preorders started, but seeing the silver version in real life i have to say it looks very very good! I Haven't yet seen the space gray in real life. What colour you guys got?

102. aasifmaqsood

Posts: 29; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

Notch on front. Camera bump on back. This is X for you..

100. YeahYeah

Posts: 254; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

Am i dreaming? was expecting 9.9 rating.. wasn't expecting 9.0 rating.

99. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

I swear no matter what score the author gives this phone, he will always get someone complaining about it being too high too low. Like guys seriously this is just the reviewers personal opinion you are welcome to take it or leave it no one is forcing to do anything!

98. poptart574

Posts: 223; Member since: Feb 29, 2016

The real score should have been an 8.5 at most. The excitement is there yet the execution is not.

95. tleskiv

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 07, 2016

It's a good phone and fair rating. Just the back glass is garbage. Scratches really easily.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

iPhone X
  • Display 5.8 inches
    2436 x 1125 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera)
    7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A11 Bionic, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2716 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x

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