Does Face ID get better over time?

I recently upgraded my iPhone 6s to an iPhone X. Obviously one big change is Touch ID to Face ID.

I must say I’m having a really hard time with Face ID. It only seems to work consistently under absolutely ideal circumstances, which in real life means failing multiple times a day.

During set-up I was told that Face ID used machine learning to track changes in eyewear and hairstyle over time.

My question is: does this mean Face ID will improve over time as it “gets to know” my face? Or is its initial performance what I should expect from now on?

Incidentally, I’ve been writing up notes comparing my experience of the X to the 6s. Would people be interested in me posting them here? I know this is a 2-year-old phone, but maybe not everyone has upgraded yet! :wink:

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I’m interested in your experience. I’m still on a 7+. It’s feeling long in the tooth, a little sluggish, occasional freezes, and I have a trip coming up that has me thinking about upgrading the camera.

That said, I’m not sold on Face ID, the notch bugs me, and my 7+ is still mostly working fine.

Question: does Face ID work in a dark room? Right now, I have to enter my passcode about once a week, but it annoys me a lot every time Touch ID doesn’t work. I’d be super aggravated if it got worse with Face ID!

I went from a 6s+ to a XR and haven’t had any significant issues with the Face ID. It’s managed to recognise me even when I’ve suddenly shaved off a few weeks of facial hair or when I’m wearing sunglasses.
The only time I get issues with it is if I’m holding it arms length (which seems a little far for it to operate), partially obscuring my face with my hand or holding the phone at an angle were it’s not really facing me but looking at the ceiling or something.

@cai, if you’re having issues then it might be worth running through the faceID setup process again to see if that helps.

@Doty, yes, it works in the dark, I’m often unlocking the phone in a room without lights or out side in the night. No issues there. With regard to the notch, I wasn’t keen on the idea of that though in practice I’ve barely noticed it. The main area of the screen is “the screen” where everything is happening. The parts of the display either side of the notch are kind of like little status areas for time & battery/signal strength and so-on. In my experience the notch just seems to recede away and I’m not that conscious of it in day-to-day use. Also, even with faceID, you still have to use your passcode about once a week just to re-confirm you’re you, as you do with touchID, no change there.

Bear in mind that IOS forces you to use your password from time to time in any case. I don’t know whether your weekly experience is that, or a flaw in Touch ID, but it could be

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Yes. This makes sense. I certainly understand this after a restart. But it seems with each iOS update, I need to enter my password more often.

I’m glad to hear it works in the dark! Surprisingly I’ve not heard people talk about this. I’ve heard from lots of people that the notch disappears with use, so I’m guessing my experience will be similar. The thing I’m wondering about is I use a magnet to attach my phone to the center of my car console area. I can reach it with Touch ID, but I’m not sure if the angle would be too great for Face ID to work. When I’m trying to navigate maps/music/podcasts, etc it would be a huge problem to need to enter the passcode whilst driving. This is one of the reasons why I kept hoping they’d come out with a version with both Face and Touch ID. I realize we’re probably up for that in the next year or so, but I’m not sure if my 7+ will hold out that long.

Is it just me? Once a week seems like a lot. It always seems to be at the worst time too. Especially frustrating is when I recently restarted the phone. It would be nice if we had the option to turn the frequency of this down or it would remember that we just entered it. I have an Apple Watch too. You’d think that would help, but I don’t think it does.

@stu_w Good idea, but unfortunately that was the first thing I tried :slight_smile:

@Doty Ok, I’ll tidy up my notes and post. Btw yes, darkness is not an issue at all, I think it uses infrared. And there are times when it’s definitely better than Touch ID, like when I have wet hands or am wearing gloves. But it has substantial drawbacks: you have to be pretty much facing the screen, which is a pain if the phone is flat on a table and you want to check notifications without ostentatiously picking the phone up and looking at it (assuming you have notifs hidden when locked), or on the kitchen windowsill and you want to check a recipe. Plus, I have long hair and when I lean over the table it tends to partially fall over my face, which frequently seems to befuddle Face ID. I find myself holding my hair back when I look at my phone on a table, which is fairly ridiculous. Also it’s kinda slow. Feels noticeably slower than Touch ID, even on the 6s. Maybe faster on XR/XS/11, but on X I notice myself wondering if it’s going to work, even when it does.

Still curious if anyone knows if Face ID improves over time. Reviews don’t mention this, obviously.

@Doty, in the car I’ve got mine on a mount that clamps to the air vents, it does allow me to point the phone right at me so just by leaning forward a little and glancing at it, it unlocks. Given the distance, it does have to be pointing right at me though.

I never have to enter my passcode unless I’ve rebooted my phone. I’ve gone months without entering my passcode.

I’ve not had any issues with faceID. There is a learning curve of where to hold the phone to unlock. Angle and Distance are key.

Practice, practice, practice.

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Remember that you can also set up an “alternate appearance”.

I did this with my iPhone in the car mount pointed at my face, and it seems to work very well.

I only have to enter my passcode after I’ve rebooted, which is nice now that I’m using a (random) alphanumeric passphrase to unlock my iOS device, not a 6-digit numeric passcode.

(Yes, I put my iPhone’s new passcode into 1Password in case I forget it, but so far the adjustment hasn’t been too bad.)


Point taken. This, below, is from the Apple Platform Security site

When a device passcode or password is required

Users can use their passcode or password anytime instead of Touch ID or Face ID, but there are some situations where biometrics aren’t permitted. The following security-sensitive operations always require entry of a passcode or password:

  • Updating the software
  • Erasing the device
  • Viewing or changing passcode settings
  • Installing configuration profiles
  • Unlocking the Security & Privacy preferences pane in System Preferences on Mac
  • Unlocking the Users & Groups preferences pane in System Preferences on Mac (if FileVault is turned on)

A passcode or password is also required if the device is in the following states:

  • The device has just been turned on or restarted
  • The user has logged out of their Mac account (or has not yet logged in)
  • The user has not unlocked their device for more than 48 hours
  • The user hasn’t used their passcode or password to unlock their device for 156 hours (six and a half days) and the user hasn’t used a biometric to unlock their device in 4 hours
  • The device has received a remote lock command
  • After exiting power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the sleep/wake simultaneously for 2 seconds and then pressing Cancel
  • After five unsuccessful biometric match attempts (though for usability, the device might offer entering a passcode or password instead of using biometrics after a smaller number of failures)
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@Doty Hey, I finally typed up and posted my thoughts on the X. They’re way too long. Hope they’re of some use or interest to you!

Just following up on case anyone lands here with the same question.

I don’t know whether Face ID gets better over time or whether @tjluoma’s suggestion of adding an alternative appearance is all it takes, but a month on I’m getting noticeably fewer failures. It’s still somewhat slow, inconvenient and needy compared to Touch ID, but it’s not as bad as it was in the first week.

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This time of year is one of utter frustration for me, as in wintertime I’m usually wearing a neck gaiter and hat outdoors and my iPhone rarely recognizes me. (At all other times FaceID works extremely well.)


I’ve been impressed with faceid on my 11-Pro. I wake up at night, barely raise my groggy head off the pillow, and the phone recognizes me.