Wondering which iPhones have Face ID? Wonder no further! We break down everything you need to know about the most advanced biometric security system in a smartphone on the planet.
It used to be that unlocking your phone required a passcode. Then the passcode was surpassed by fingerprint sensors embedded into smartphones. But back in 2017, Apple advanced security for the greater smartphone industry with the introduction of Face ID. But just what is it and which iPhones support Face ID?
What Is Face ID?
Face ID is Apple’s modern biometric authentication system. That’s quite a mouthful, right? So let’s unpack it. An “authentication system” simply means the technology involved in the method used to verify a particular person can gain access to something.
Your credit card has an authentication system known as a chip and pin. Every online account you have has an authentication system known as a password. Even the humble centuries-old house key is a rudimentary authentication system. The possessor of the key is allowed to gain access to whatever it unlocks.
Now for the “biometric” part. Biometric refers to statistical data from a biological system that can be recognized verified. If you’ve ever seen a movie where the spy needs to perform a rental scan to unlock a door, that’s a biometric authentication system. And of course, if you have ever used your thumbprint to unlock a phone that phone has a built-in biometric authentication system, which uses the fingerprint.
The advantage to biometric authentication systems over traditional authentication systems like passcodes or keys is that you don’t need to remember any passcode or have a physical key with you. You always (hopefully) have your eyes and fingers with you, which makes biometric authentication systems more user friends.
But back to Face ID. Now you can see Face ID is just another form of biometric authentication system, but one that uses a scan of your face to unlock your phone rather than a fingerprint.
Which iPhones Have Face ID?
Apple unveiled Face ID back in 2017 with the introduction of the iPhone X. That iPhone was the first iPhone to have a modern, all-screen design. That design was achievable because Apple ditched the Touch ID home button and replace that biometric authentication system with Face ID.
Almost all iPhones currently sold today have Face ID, except for the iPhone SE (2020), which still has a home button with Touch ID. Here are all the iPhone models Apple has ever made that have Face ID:
- iPhone X
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
Do Other Apple Devices Have Face ID?
For a while, Face ID was limited to iPhones. But in 2018 Apple introduced the new iPad Pro, which also adopted Face ID when that device gained an all-screen design. Right now the current iPad Pro is the only iPad model that also offers Face ID.
Here are all the iPad models that have ever offered Face ID:
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2018)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (2018)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2020)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (2020)
Is Face ID Better Than Touch ID?
Technically speaking: yes, Face ID is better than Touch ID. Why? It’s much more secure. While Touch ID had a false-positive rate (the rate at which the iPhone would incorrectly verify an unregistered fingerprint as a legitimate one) was one in 50,000. Face ID has a false-positive rate of one in one million. That means Face ID is 20 times more secure than Touch ID.
Why is it so much more secure? Simply because Face ID’s sensors read many more datapoints than the sensor of Touch ID does. That’s thanks to the TrueDepth camera system it uses.
How Is Face ID Different Than Face Unlocking On Android Phones?
It’s often asked why Face ID is a big deal if Android phones have had facial recognition unlocking features long before the iPhone X came out. It’s because “facial recognition” and what Face ID does work in two completely different ways.
Traditional facial recognition biometric authentication systems found on Android phones work by the front camera performing image recognition on your face. If it looks like you, your Android phone will unlock. However, the front camera on Android phones can only sense light–not depth. That means many Android phones that use “facial recognition” can be unlocked if someone holds a picture of you up to the phone’s front camera.
Face ID doesn’t work based on image recognition. It has an extra sensor known as a TrueDepth camera, located by the front camera on the iPhone. This TrueDepth camera measures not imagery, but depth. It’s this that makes Face ID so secure. Face ID is scanning for depth when it looks at your face.
Matter of fact Face ID doesn’t know exactly what you look like. It only knows what your face is shaped like. And if someone tries to unlock your iPhone using a picture of you, Face ID will know it’s not you because the photo has no depth.
In deciding whether to unlock for you, Face ID computes over 30,000 points of interest on your face, measuring the minute differences in the depth of your nose, mouth, eyelids, and more. If those differences don’t match up exactly, Face ID knows it’s not really you trying to unlock your iPhone.
Pretty cool, huh?
Can You Use Face ID With A Face Mask?
When Apple introduced Face ID on the iPhone X in 2017, no one in the world would have believed that less than three years later the world would be in the midst of a global pandemic. With that pandemic came the necessity to wear face masks. As you might imagine, face masks don’t play nice with Face ID.
The reason face masks don’t play nice with Face ID has to do with how the Face ID system works. As we’ve already discussed, Face ID isn’t built on image-recognition. That is, Face ID doesn’t unlock a phone simply by seeing an image of your face. Instead, it relies on a depth-based camera that can measure the depth of various parts of your face.
A face mask naturally hides most of your face, so Face ID’s TrueDepth camera can’t read those physical dips of your nose, lips, chin, and cheekbones. Thus, Face ID won’t unlock your phone when you have a mask on. Some people of course have tried to get around this by setting up Face ID again, but doing so as they have a mask on their face. The logic here is if Face ID scans your face with a face mask on during setup, it’ll unlock your iPhone when you have that mask on.
But this isn’t the case either–and it’s a great example of just how much thought Apple put into the security of Face ID. The Face ID system needs to see a certain percentage of a user’s natural features and it knows the face mask is not a natural part of the face. And with the face mask on, Face ID can only measure the depth around your eyes and forehead–which is not enough for the system to be sure the person who is trying to unlock the phone is the person who owns it.
The good news is that Apple has found a solution to keep the full security of Face ID while allowing people who are wearing a mask to unlock their phones. The bad news? You also need to own an Apple Watch.
Beginning in iOS 14.5, which should ship Spring 2021, Face ID will be fine only being able to scan a person’s eyes and forehead if they are wearing a mask–as long as they are also wearing an Apple Watch. How this works is the person’s iPhone and Apple Watch will be signed into the same iCloud account. Face ID is thus comfortable knowing that if the eyes and forehead match the facial data the iPhone has, and the Apple Watch on the person’s wrist is logged in (unlocked with the PIN code you need to enter every time you put it on) and within a very short range of the iPhone trying to be unlocked–and again, both are signed in to the same iCloud account, Face ID will unlock your iPhone.
This is actually a very clever implementation of what is called two-factor authentication, or 2FA. Here two of Apple’s devices logged into the same iCloud account and physically very near each other are telling Face ID that “yes, this person whose face is trying to unlock the iPhone is really them–because they have their Apple Watch on them too, and are logged into that.”
At the end of the day it really is quite a brilliant solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does iPhone 8 have Face ID?
Nope. The iPhone 8 does not have Face ID. Though the iPhone 8 came out in 2017–the year the iPhone X debuted, too, only the iPhone X got Face Id that year.
Q: Does iPhone 7 have Face ID?
No, the iPhone 7 does not have Face ID. The iPhone 7 was released a year before the iPhone X debuted. The iPhone X was the first iPhone with Face ID.
Q: Does iPhone SE have Face ID?
No. No iPhone SE has ever had Face ID. Matter of fact, in 2020, the iPhone SE is the ONLY iPhone Apple still sells without Face ID!
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.