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Apple lowered the specifications for the components that make up the iPhone X’s Face ID sensor to help its supply chain manufacture the upcoming phone faster, according to a new Bloomberg report, but Apple has publicly denied the claim.
Hands on with the iPhone X: OLED and HDR outshine the other featuresThe report generally highlights the struggles with Apple’s new facial recognition system during the iPhone X manufacturing process. It says the company gave its suppliers the okay to reduce the accuracy of Face ID to speed up production sometime in “early fall.”
The report does not specify how Apple may have reduced the specifications for Face ID or whether the alleged reduction would have any tangible effect for consumers. Apple said that Face ID’s accuracy was 1,000,000:1 when it unveiled the iPhone X in September, well above the one-in-50,000 chance that a user could unlock someone else’s iPhone using the company’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The report says Face ID will “probably still be far more accurate than Touch ID,” even with a downgrade.
Apple, however, denies the claim, calling the idea that it reduced Face ID’s accuracy specs “completely false” in a statement e-mailed to Ars Technica. Here’s the company’s full response:
Customer excitement for iPhone X and Face ID has been incredible, and we can’t wait for customers to get their hands on it starting Friday, November 3. Face ID is a powerful and secure authentication system that’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use. The quality and accuracy of Face ID haven't changed. It continues to be 1 in a million probability of a random person unlocking your iPhone with Face ID.
Bloomberg’s claim that Apple has reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication.
Apple is under pressure to make the iPhone X, which starts at $999 and sports many revamped design and engineering aspects compared to past iPhones, a hit. But several reports over the past few months have said that the company is having trouble producing the new phone at massive scale. This is part of why the device is launching six weeks after the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, more traditional upgrades that appear to be facing relatively muted interest. (For iPhones, at least.)
I’m worried that FaceID is going to suck—and here’s whyThe Face ID system is typically cited in rumors and reports as the main manufacturing hiccup. As Bloomberg notes, Face ID uses a flood illuminator, infrared camera, and dot projector to identify a user’s face. Getting the dot projector right is said to be the biggest challenge, as the components used to create it are exceedingly fragile and need to be implemented with pinpoint accuracy in order for the whole thing to function properly, according to the report.
We’ll need to test out Face ID for ourselves to see how well it works in practice, and none of this gets around the potential privacy concerns such a system raises. Either way, getting your hands on an iPhone X this holiday is still likely to be tricky.