I’m afraid to unlock my iPhone. Every time I lift my iPhone 13 mini to authenticate my face, I’m afraid it won’t recognize me due to a misaligned angle, obstruction from the sun’s rays, or some other distracting factor. Therefore, I am forced to enter my PIN. It’s especially annoying when trying to log into an account or purchase an app. In these scenarios, it’s not just a few numbers that I have to type – I’m inadvertently prompted to type in my password manager or the 20-character alphanumeric Apple ID code.
Face ID was supposed to be the future of authentication – a “smooth experience”, Apple promised in 2017. A decade later, it feels like nothing more than a step backwards. When I upgraded to an iPhone, I knew it would give me a better and more reliable experience in many ways, but its face-only biometric authentication and exclusive charging port would forever be the bane of my existence. I’ve learned to live with the latter, partly thanks to wireless charging, but the former? It was a nightmare and a half. Listen to me.
Why Face ID is the Worst iPhone Feature
Face ID, for me, fails far more often than it should on a flagship smartphone. There is an endless list of scenarios where Face ID refuses to work and throws an error: under direct sunlight, when I’m sitting on my desk, while I’m wearing a mask (as well as glasses), off-angles, right after I woke up – you get the idea. There are also times when I just can’t look directly at my phone’s front sensors (like asking Siri to text someone while driving). In fact, during the launch of the iPhone X, when Face ID was introduced, Apple VP Craig Federighi couldn’t unlock the demo phone with his face, likely due to the light. from the scene.
I made peace with the fact that Apple wasn’t planning on removing Face ID anytime soon – so I thought. Over the past few months, I’ve been tinkering with the Google Pixel 6, iPhoneSE and the iPad Air 5, which – you guessed it – are equipped with the good old fingerprint sensor. And you know what? I miss using my numbers to unlock my iPhone more than I first thought.
Although Face ID feels effortless every time it works, fingerprint sensors just make more sense on phones. They are more accurate, reliable and versatile, and faster too. Plus, their effectiveness isn’t affected by how you look at any given time. If I’m wearing a beanie and sunglasses on a cold, bright morning while having an iPhone with Face ID, I’d have to enter my PIN like it’s 2012. With a fingerprint sensor, that’s is as usual.
Manufacturers have the option of placing a fingerprint sensor in a bunch of slots depending on their designs. The three devices I mentioned earlier have a different type of fingerprint sensor: the Pixel 6 has it under the display, the iPhoneSE it houses it inside the home button, and the iPad Air offers it on the side power key. When using a phone, our fingers naturally rest on these places, whether it’s the screen, the side or the back – and it’s unlocked as soon as you pick it up or pull it out of your poached.
The under-display and side-mounted fingerprint readers also defeat one of the purposes Face ID was meant to achieve: an edge-to-edge screen. Under-display biometrics have allowed phone makers like Samsung to cut the bezels and provide more screen real estate on their phones.
That’s not all: Face ID’s complex array of sensors are harder to fix. It wasn’t until February of this year that Apple figured out how to fix a faulty Face ID unit without replacing the entire iPhone. It’s no surprise, then, that Face ID is a rare iPhone feature that has yet to fully catch on in the industry. Companies like Samsung and Google stick to fingerprint readers.
Face recognition scales best on a laptop or desktop computer, because you’re usually sitting in front in a few positions, and especially on a laptop it’s relatively inconvenient to move your finger to the corner on, for example, a MacBook to connect. Ironically, however, this is where Apple hasn’t made the leap to Face ID, unlike Microsoft and its impressive Windows Hello characteristic.
Face ID hasn’t lived up to expectations, which is likely why Apple hasn’t made it a standard across its lineups and has spent the past two years filing patents for under-display fingerprint readers. But don’t expect Touch ID to return to premium iPhones anytime soon, because reported by analysts. Until that happens, it will continue to be an anticlimactic element of the iPhone experience, and I will continue to enter my phone’s PIN at least dozens of times a day – or just snag a iPhoneSE.