Watch media fail to cover Face ID demo glitch — so embarrassing!

Face ID on iPhone
Face ID on iPhone

During Apple's iPhone X Event, senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi had to switch to a backup iPhone X after discovering that Face ID, the feature he was about to demonstrate, had been disabled.

Just as with Touch ID (Apple's existing fingerprint identity sensor), Face ID requires a device passcode following a reboot, a period of inactivity, or successive authentication attempts that don't match what's registered on the device. The device even showed a nearly-identical message Touch ID shows after successive fingerprint mismatches; in this case, it was "Enter Passcode: Your passcode is required to enable Face ID".

Apple has since issued a statement to Yahoo confirming as much:

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.

It was, plain and simple, a setup failure. This is also why Apple has backup devices available for every demo. No doubt it was an unpleasant moment for Federighi — though he handled it in his usual, jovial manner on stage — and for whoever was responsible for setting up that iPhone X.

But it wasn't a failure of Face ID — at least not as part of Federighi's demo. Not that you'd know that from the coverage. Apple 3.0:

  • Business Insider: Watch Apple's Face ID unlocking fail during its big demo
  • The Telegraph: Apple suffers embarrassing demo Face ID fail at iPhone X launch
  • Mashable: Apple tried to show off Face ID, and it was so embarrassing
  • MacRumors: Doubts and Speculation Surround Apple's Onstage Face ID 'Fail' During iPhone X Keynote
  • The Verge: Apple's first Face ID demo failed, but it wasn't Face ID's fault
  • Vice: Apple's stock suddenly dropped after that Face ID fail

While the actual problem was apparent to anyone familiar with how Touch ID already works, it may not have been apparent to everyone watching the event. That's where the media is supposed to step in and help educate and inform people.

If Face ID has actual problems, people absolutely need to be told about them. In this case, though, it wasn't Face ID that failed: It was the setup that failed first; and by going for the cheap headlines, the media that failed second.

Not all the media, certainly. The Verge got it right and MacRumors hedged. Some of the other articles referenced above contain good content as well, but it's the headlines that readers and the markets will see and remember.

That's especially frustrating right now because Face ID is so new and people will naturally have questions and concerns about it. And instead of being part of the education and information solution, they ended up being part of the Face ID FUD.

I've had a chance to see Face ID in action for unlock and Apple Pay in a variety of situations now and it works as well as Touch ID. Arguably the only differences in preference will be subjective and vary by the individual.

Starting November 3, people will have a chance to try it and decide — and report — for themselves.

Updated to include Apple's comment to Yahoo! and to point out some publications, like The Verge, got the headlines right.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

60 Comments
  • 😂😂😂😂 This guy!!!
  • Does Apple pay you by the article or a flat fee to defend them on anything possibly negative that shows up about them?
  • Rene, there are several reasons the message that was displayed on the iPhone during the demo failure could have been displayed - one of those reasons is a several legitimate Face ID (or Touch ID) unlock failures... Do you know 100% (i.e. you've confirmed with people involved with the demo) that the failure was NOT due to actual Face ID unlock failure?? The only other reason that message is displayed that I'm aware of is due to inactivity (not being unlocked for quite some time - 8 hours in fact). So either the iPhone he was using hadn't been unlocked for 8 hours OR the Face ID legitimately failed. Have you verified 100% which scenario this was OR are you assuming it wasn't a Face ID unlock failure because you've seen Face ID work at other times???
  • Of course he hasn't (verified).
  • Or could just be that the iPhone being used was just turned on and left there. Have to type in a password or pin to unlock it after boot. I'm not making excuses here. It could have straight up just failed. But the other possibilities are in fact, possible. Who knows. We will have more real world coverage than we need soon enough from across the Web, including iMore. Let's just wait till that happens then we can all see the truth, whatever that may be. Flicked via the  BlackBerry keyboard on my PRIV
  • It's been verified by Apple (the article is on MacRumors). But realistically, all you have to do is go to an iPhone with TouchID, use the wrong finger to authenticate, and Rene is proven right. "Your passcode is required to enable TouchID" is the message that comes up when you restart the phone, the fingerprint fails to auth around 5 times (I didn't count when I tested), or you restart the phone. Rene can be an apologist at times, but this is not one of those times.
  • Apple released a statement which basically confirms what he said
  • Speaking of ethics, you could have taken a neutral stand rather than inclining towards "not fail" voices until the facts are ascertained. That makes you no different from the people("media") you are complaining about.
  • Im a avid Android user and Im gonna make the switch to apple and grab the iPhone X. That being said part of the reason it has taken me so long to consider apple is articles like this. Rene, you seriously need to stop covering Apples ***. People like you are why Android users dont want to become 'iSheep'. If the iPhone X sucks, which I hope and doubt it will, I will call a spade a spade and stop brandishing a lie to people just to feel 'cool'.
  • Well, I guess Apple now knows how Trump feels. Seriously though, should Apple count on the media to correct their errors, or maybe address it themselves? it didn't look good on any level. I felt embarrassed for him.
  • It was failure to allow that to happen during the demo. Bet someone is turning in resumes now. That should been tested right before he went out on stage. First impression means a lot.
  • Rene, have you verified what you speak? You are talking factually, so I assume you know this for certain. Otherwise you’re just as guilty as those you’re talking about. You’re making assumptions. Just because your assumptions are in favor of Apple doesn’t make it any better. TechCrunch mentioned in their hands on that FaceID failed several times. Did you all notice any failed attempts during the hands on?
  • Exactly. I'm noticing that they defend Apple wayyy too much. None of us know why that happened. Not the media who reported what they observed which was a failure. Nor the others that feel it was a setup failure.
    What we do know is that they are selling us a super expensive phone and are stumbling through showing off its features.
  • Thanks Rene. As usual the mainstream and blog media go for the negative and untrue in order to get clicks. I was watching as it happened and I saw what you did.
  • What is untrue? The Face ID demo failed. High profile demo failures get publicized by the media regardless of whether it is Samsung, Google, Apple, etc
  • What it looked like was what happens when you restart your phone or perhaps that FaceID wasn't set up for him. Either way it looked like a setup fail rather than the technology itself. Of course, only the setup guys know for sure but the message that appeared looked like one of the above two options.
  • Agreed Rene! It may be the unpopular opinion, but I think you got it. I noticed the same thing! Ignore these narcissists!
  • Why are people who question the reliability of Face ID narcissists? Apple have chosen to remove a reliable method of biometric security and replaced it with a method that has only really been used in the consumer space on an Xbox Kinect with mixed results.
  • Because you don’t think for yourself and tell someone else who is in the know that they don’t know what they are talking about and make it out like your lack of knowledge is fact and criticize him for being wrong! Classic narcissism! This my comment! People claim that Rene doesn’t know what he is talking about with situations like this when time and time again his facts (not opinions) have proven him right down the road, and the. You @55hats want to tell him he is a sheep!?! You’re the ones that can’t think for yourselves because you are lazy and hyperbolic! Just here to hate and stir the pot!
  • That's not narcissism; check your dictionary.
  • Other companies have tried "Face ID" and it is hard to crack. Let alone unpleasant to use. But to call anybody, who doubts Apple a narissist is dumb, sorry. Maybe Apple will iron out the kinks, if there are any. But to just believe what you want to believe is ignorant.
  • See my above reply. Start thinking for yourself. Stop jumping to conclusions. And start giving credit where credit is due! Rene has the brains on this stuff. You’re just an outside observer who is here to troll anyways!
  • Is the title a deliberate attempt to replicate the hyperbole of a Trump tweet (all the article was missing was a cry of "fake news!) or have we reached peak Rene?
  • Funny, the fact that even after this article people still doubt whether the phone failed or not, simply shows nobody (outside of Apple) knows.
  • So we have an answer: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/really-happened-apples-face-id-fail-onsta... This doesn't exactly fill me with confidence if in a crowded room or sat around a table and the iPhone is busily failing to recognise the myriad faces around it. Hopefully by launch they will have figured this out, otherwise many iPhone X owners will be wishing for the return of the fingerprint scanner.
  • Did you not see/hear the keynote? The phone won’t try to unlock until it’s picked up or tapped! How is that hard to understand? People were handling the phone and in doing so, the Face ID didn’t recognize them as being Craig, and after a few attempts to verify them (as Craig), it failed! Then they forgot to put in the passcode. Simple as that! Easy to comprehend had people used their brain!
  • Do you really feel like it is your job to do Apple PR? Well at least we know why you got an invite and Andy didn't.
  • Did Andy say he actually didn’t get an invite? Also, why would Apple want him there when all he knows how to do is bi7ch about keyboards!
  • I'm trying to figure out where he got the Ultimate Warrior filter on SnapChat!
  • Part of an update coming for snap
  • Rene - The distinction you're trying to make here is meaningless. You may be correct that it didn't fail to recognize his face, but that's not the point. Apple presented this a fast, easy way to unlock your phone. Craig picked up the phone, looked at it, and it didn't unlock. The "why" doesn't matter here, nor is it a matter of opinion. Craig wanted to unlock the phone. The phone didn't unlock. It failed. Design is how it works.
  • What you are essentially saying is Apple should have made FaceID less secure by not issuing a lockout upon failed authentication attempts. This is a poor argument.
  • All I'm saying is that Apple claimed that their software would recognize Craig when he picked up the phone and automatically unlock it. He picked up the phone. Phone did not unlock. Nothing else matters. How many times will I, as a user, have this happen to me? It will be no consolation that my phone had been recently restarted, or that there were other failed attempts. I know I'm me, and I'm trying to use my phone.
  • You, as a user, will have that happen to you the same as if you mistype a passcode or use the wrong finger/finger placement for TouchID. This isn't new. This happens on your current iPhone. It's the same implementation with a different factor - that's it. Your argument is this: "I know the password I typed in is at least very close to my real password. At most it's one character off. Why won't my phone just let me in? I was close enough!" Security matters.
  • It is a trade off... If your phone is sitting on a table during a meeting will it be bio locking constantly if people other than the owner glance at the phone after it's tapped?
  • What a huge fuss over a nothing glitch!
  • Because the haters have to latch onto something, anything they can pound away on. Two hours of presentation of new products, features but this is what the hater crowd zeros in on. See, SEE! Apple FAILED! Don't buy their products, they FAIL!
  • Convinced me :)