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Apple iPhone X Face ID demo fail explained

Craig Federighi of Apple during a live demo of the iPhone X. (Source: Apple)
Craig Federighi of Apple during a live demo of the iPhone X. (Source: Apple)
The iPhone X keynote featured a lot of cool new tech, including Face ID. Unfortunately for Apple's Craig Federighi, things didn't go to plan when demonstrating it live in front of an audience of millions. Or did they?
Sanjiv Sathiah,

It is the nightmare that none of us would ever want to experience. During Apple’s iPhone X keynote presentation, Apple Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi was in the middle of a live demonstration of the iPhone X to an audience of millions when its vaunted Face ID tech appeared to fail. Given that Apple had dropped its excellent Touch ID fingerprint recognition enroute to delivering an iPhone that is nearly all display, it was embarrassing to say the least. The clip of the incident that we have embedded below has already been viewed over half a million times and is going viral with a bullet.

Federighi was forced to quickly switch to a backup iPhone X unit that instantly recognized his face as the tech had been advertised. Yahoo! editor David Pogue reached out to Apple regarding the apparent failure. A spokesperson replied that that Face ID worked as it should have. In its statement, Apple said that a number of people at Apple involved in setting up the demo had come into contact with the first of Federighi’s iPhone X units and, having rejected their faces, defaulted as it should have into requiring Federighi’s passcode.

People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time, and didn't realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren't Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode. Face ID worked as it was designed to.

Apple’s explanation seems plausible enough to us. The Face ID tech projects over 30,000 invisible infrared dots at a user’s face in order to create a precise depth map of it. This is also supposed to also help it avoid being defeated by masks and photos. The Apple employees handling the Federighi’s iPhone X wouldn’t have necessarily been aware that Face ID was attempting to scan their faces ahead of the demo.

Unfortunately for Apple, #faceidfail is well and truly trending on Twitter as well and no amount of explaining is going to wash away Craig Federighi’s embarrassment.


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Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - Senior Tech Writer - 1360 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I have been writing about consumer technology over the past ten years, previously with the former MacNN and Electronista, and now Notebookcheck since 2017. My first computer was an Apple ][c and this sparked a passion for Apple, but also technology in general. In the past decade, I’ve become increasingly platform agnostic and love to get my hands on and explore as much technology as I can get my hand on. Whether it is Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, each has plenty to offer and has given me great joy exploring them all. I was drawn to writing about tech because I love learning about the latest devices and also sharing whatever insights my experience can bring to the site and its readership.
contact me via: @t3mporarybl1p
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 09 > Apple iPhone X Face ID demo fail explained
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2017-09-14 (Update: 2017-09-15)