Moments after Phil Schiller got done extolling the accuracy of the iPhone X’s brand-new, ultra-sophisticated Face ID authentication system, Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi came onstage to show how easy and fast it is to actually use. Unfortunately, Federighi’s initial attempt to unlock the onstage demo iPhone X was unsuccessful. The passcode screen popped up. He then picked up a second iPhone X and the feature worked successfully.
For all we know, this was a one-off fluke that’s not indicative of how well Face ID will actually perform for consumers. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be an error by the company’s replacement for Touch ID at all. The passcode screen that Federighi got on that first iPhone X said “Your passcode is required to enable Face ID.” This is the same screen that would come up on existing iPhones after a device has been restarted — or simply after several hours have passed without authenticating through the lock screen. This is a security precaution introduced with Touch ID that will clearly carry onward with Face ID.
Still, it was an embarrassing presentation moment that will probably burn itself into the memories of Apple’s executive team for a long time. Whoever should’ve had that phone ready and set for the stage... didn’t. It should’ve been smooth and taken a second, and that’s not what happened. Rather, those couple awkward seconds were a very noticeable hitch during the event. For its first iPhone without a home button, Apple wanted to make this feel like a seamless and even more secure transition for consumers and, well, now they’ll have to wait until November to see how well Face ID does or doesn’t work.
Hopefully once you train your iPhone X to understand your face, it’ll work every time in a variety of conditions as Schiller claimed — so long as you’ve entered your passcode at some point that day.