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Face ID is not a step forward, it’s a step back

iPhone X. Apple’s trying their hardest to convince you that this is the next big thing. That this is the smartphone that all smartphones will look like in the future. That this is the phone all other phones will be benchmarked against.

But is it really? I’m not convinced. I’ve combed through a whole bunch of articles and videos about this smartphone but I’m still unconvinced. All of us at SoyaCincau have a lot of strong opinions about the handset. Some are deeply unimpressed while others are less so.

Despite this back-and-forth debate, though, all of us do agree that there is one big thing on the iPhone X that will almost certainly not be the “future of smartphones”. Yep, this is a story about Face ID.

For the uninitiated, Face ID is Apple’s new facial recognition biometric security feature that they debuted on the iPhone X. It’s supposed to be this super advanced and super foolproof (one in a million) way of securing your smartphone. Apple says it uses a sophisticated TrueDepth camera to map your face with the help of 30,000 invisible dots that are projected onto your face by a dot projector.

I can say with almost 100% certainty that Face ID — at least in its current iteration — will never be better than Touch ID. At best, and this is really pushing it, it will be maybe as good as Touch ID but I doubt it will be better.

You see, the magic of Touch ID has always been how invisible it is, how you can be using it every day of your life and almost never know it’s even there. Just think about one of the most common movements you make with your smartphone: Pulling it out of your pocket. Whether you’re walking down the street, in an elevator or in the middle of a conversation with someone you really don’t like, before you even look at your handset, it’s probably already unlocked at ready to go. The motion of moving your finger to the home button and unlocking your handset is so automatic that your body does it for you while the phone is moving from your pocket to the front of your face. It’s effortless and invisible and awesome.

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Now picture doing that with Face ID and you won’t end up with the same fluid motion. If you’re familiar with the way Apple’s raise to wake works, you will know that the phone’s screen will only wake if it’s being deliberately held up to your face (I tried this multiple times with our iPhone 7 Plus).

So, if you’re relying on Face ID here’s what that very same pocket-to-face motion will be like: You pull it out of your pocket, lift the phone to your face (very deliberately) and the screen wakes. At this point you look like you’re trying to take the world’s most awkward selfie. Then, Face ID kicks in and recognises you, then unlocks. And even if it does all of that in a fraction of a second, you still have to swipe up to get to your home screen.

Not the most fluid motion. But, while convenience is our biggest gripe about Face ID over Touch ID, there’s also the problem that with Face ID the “code” that secures your smartphone is your face.

Passwords are easy to hide. Fingerprints are easy to cover up. But your face? You’re face is out there for everyone to see. If someone just picks up your phone, points it in your direction and gets your attention, all it takes is a glance and they have access to your handset. Sure, Face ID requires that you have your eyes open to unlock, but what are you going to do? Sit there with your eyes closed the whole time?

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And that’s not all because you also have to be wary of malicious applications and nefarious app developers. You see, in the past, Touch ID’s recognition software was used for one thing and one thing alone — biometric authentication. Face ID’s tech, though, is also used to map your face for silly fun stuff like Animojis. What’s stopping a shady app developer from making an app that looks like it’s there to give you silly face stickers but is actually mapping your face and recording that data for nefarious purposes?

I simply don’t see a reason why Apple couldn’t have kept Touch ID on the iPhone X but move it to a different spot on the phone. I don’t know, maybe they could try a revolutionary location like in the middle of the back of the phone. I’m sure nobody’s tried that before and then Apple could reinvent Touch ID yet again. Y’know, I’m just spitballing here.

I don’t know about you, but the more I think about it, the less I’m convinced about Face ID. Though, know this, these are all deductions I’m making without actually having used the iPhone X or Face ID yet. Who knows? Maybe Apple’s figured it all out and my concerns are unfounded.

I really hope they do prove me wrong, though, because come the end of the year, millions of people around the world will be dropping an exorbitant amount cash on a smartphone that they think is the future of phones. I’d hate for all those people to later discover that Face ID was nothing more than a temporary solution Apple stuck together with gaffer tape because they couldn’t figure out how to embed Touch ID in the phone’s display.