Apple’s upcoming new smartphone, the iPhone X (iPhone 10), is due out next month (November). Even if the $1000 price tag doesn’t put you off, there are certain things that you should know about the iPhone X which may, such as iPhone 10’s Face ID facial recognition. And The Notch (which some people call the Tab). And the glass back.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about the iPhone X is that it has done away with touch identification, and instead implemented facial recognition. Now, you may think of facial recognition as a hot new technology, but it’s actually been around for a while – and so have the privacy issues associated with facial recognition.
Even if you are prepared to overlook the more blatant examples of problems with facial recognition, such as the Russian app that uses facial recognition to let you find out who strangers are, and the issues around facial recognition that were brought up when Facebook moved to use facial recognition, causing Facebook to have to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, it’s advisable to really consider whether you want onboard facial recognition in your next phone.
The Face ID Facial Recognition System on iPhone X
First and foremost is the privacy issue that comes with facial recognition and, more to the point, your facial recognition data. As Venture Beat points out, “While Apple has asserted that your face data will stay on your phone not in the cloud, terms of service can change.”
Not only can terms of service change, but they often do.
And that’s assuming no malicious actors who decide they want to slip a malicious app onto your phone which sends them your facial data, along with your banking and other details.
Here’s how Face ID’s facial recognition happens:
“Once it confirms the presence of an attentive face, the TrueDepth camera projects and reads over 30,000 infrared dots to form a depth map of the face, along with a 2D infrared image. This data is used to create a sequence of 2D images and depth maps, which are digitally signed and sent to the Secure Enclave.”
So just how secure is the Face ID system itself in terms of unlocking your phone for the wrong person? In their own Face ID Security Guide, Apple says:
The probability of a false match is different for twins and siblings
that look like you as well as among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend using a passcode to authenticate.
In other words, your siblings who may look like you may well be able to unlock your phone. And they won’t even have to put something malicious on your phone to do it. Of course, they’re your siblings, so you trust them, right?
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True, Apple also says that the probability of a random person being able to unlock your iPhone X with face recognition is 1:1,000,000 (one in a million), and then contrasts that to the probability of a random person being able to unlock your iPhone with Touch ID, which they peg at 1:50,000. (That’s enough for us to never enable Touch ID.)
And, regardless, says Apple, you will still have to use your numeric passcode under the following circumstances:
• The device has just been turned on or restarted.
• The device hasn’t been unlocked for more than 48 hours.
• The passcode hasn’t been used to unlock the device in the last 156 hours (six and a half days) and Face ID has not unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.
• The device has received a remote lock command.
• After five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.
• After initiating power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the side button simultaneously for 2 seconds.
The Other Big Issue with iPhone X
The other big issue (for some people at least) is also related to the Face ID facial recognition – it’s the issue of The Notch.
The Infamous iPhone X Notch:
The Notch houses the new TrueDepth camera system, which is the camera which “projects and reads over 30,000 infrared dots to form a depth map of the face” mentioned above.
For the most part, an overwhelming number of people dislike The Notch. In fact, dislike it enough that it has led to such articles as this Business Insider article, in which the author states, among other things, that The Notch is “the lone blemish on an otherwise stunning display.”
And One More Thing
The iPhone X has a glass back. (How many times have you had your phone fall the floor? Think a similar glass-backed phone would have survived?)
Not only that, but the glass back is there to facilitate what will be your new charging option: buying one or more Qi charging pads or station. Fortunately you can find Qi charging stations and pads on Amazon, but that’s not really the point. You shouldn’t have to buy a charger after dropping a grand on a phone – the charging setup should come with it.
(Note: Apple does apparently have its own wireless charging station in the works, however it isn’t due out until next year, so you’re on your own to provide a Qi charge for your iPhone X. True, you can still always use the Lightning charging port – just like you can always use a passcode instead of facial recognition to unlock your phone. So, we say, why bother with either?)
Between the privacy concerns over facial recognition, the presence of The Notch, the glass back, and having to buy your own charging station(s) for the iPhone X, we think we’ll pass.
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