iPhone Facial Recognition Feature: How Does It Work?

Ever since Apple got rid of the Touch ID for unlocking iPhones, there came a new technology called Face ID. This innovation changed how people use their smartphones; it was no longer by entering passcodes and scanning fingerprints on the screen. The facial recognition feature simply captures accurate facial data to unlock the phone and more.

With a simple glance to the screen, upright, a person can unlock the device and authorize purchases made in the Apple Store, Apple Books and other payments with Apple Pay. Developers of this advanced technology claimed that the facial recognition feature can adapt to changes in a person’s appearance such as cosmetic makeup or growing facial hair.


The question is, how does this innovation work and how can it affect the experience of mobile users? In this article, we are going to explore the significance of face ID and find out the security authentication of this technology.

How The Face Recognition Feature Works

As mentioned, the TrueDepth camera system scans the facial points with infrared light with 30,000 dots invisible to the human eye. The iPhone creates a depth map of the face and the data will turn into a mathematical representation. This data will be encrypted into the device and allow iPhone users to unlock the device by simply scanning their faces with TrueDepth Camera.


The system mostly captures the details around the eyes, nose, and mouth. That’s why, when setting up, the system wants a user to focus their faces into the screen and not move out of the frame. Face recognition works best if the phone is held 10 to 20 inches away from the face.

If you are holding the phone in bed while leaning against a pillow or holding the phone too close to your face, it will not unlock the device. Position the device slightly farther to scan the facial points collected by the iPhone.

How To Enable The Face ID Feature

Only iPhones X, XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max are capable of this function. Apple ditched the Touch ID fingerprint scanning system and moved to this newer technology to enhance the experience of iPhone users.


Activating the face recognition feature is easy. The iPhone’s TrueDepth camera captures the accurate face data and analyzes the depth map of the face. To enable this technology, follow the steps below.

  1. Tap on Settings then looks for Face ID & Passcode.
  2. Choose Set Up Face ID.
  3. Ensure that you are holding the device in a portrait orientation, and position your face in front of the iPhone.
  4. Tap Get Started.
  5. Position your face inside the frame. Follow the series of instructions that pop on the screen. Usually, you simply need to move your head to complete the circle.
  6. After the scan, tap on Continue.
  7. Move your head to complete the circle for the last time.
  8. Tap Done.

Even if you set up the Face ID, you still need to set up a passcode as an alternative way of unlocking the device. Create a combination of six digits to complete the setup.

The new iPhones also have better unlocking technology with the Raise To Wake feature. When you move the phone upwards, it will automatically power and scan for the Face ID.

Things You Don’t Know About Face ID

Aside from iPhones, the new generation of iPads also uses the face recognition feature. The iPad Pro third generation and iPad Pro 11-inch also unlock with Face ID.

Wondering whether the Face ID can detect your face even without lighting? The answer is yes, as the system uses infrared light to scan the face. This works both indoors and outdoors, with no artificial light or sunlight. What’s more fascinating is that it also works in a pitch-black room.

Wearing sunglasses affects recognition as some facial points are covered. Hence, they should be removed when scanning. However, Apple claims that there are some sunglass manufacturers who are designing future models that work with the recognition feature. If the Face ID fails, you can always type in your passcode to access the device and make payments.

Image source: scmp.com

Bottom Line

Coming from older iPhone models, it takes time to get used to the face recognition feature. This system redefines how people use their phones and make transactions. It also gets rid of the chore to type in passcodes when you are in a hurry. Overall, the Face ID technology is useful and efficient, especially for people who are always on the go.

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