How to Use Face ID on Your iPhone X

By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

Setting up passcode safeguards on your iPhone X is a good idea. But passcodes can be a hassle at times, such as when you’re holding an umbrella in one hand and tapping a passcode with the other. Apple has said in the past that about half the folks with an iPhone don’t even bother with passcodes, and that’s unfortunate because you don’t want to let just anybody get at your personal information.

Enter the iPhone X with Face ID, the clever facial recognition system that debuts on the X. Apple claims Face ID is so secure that the chance that any other person could unlock your device is 1 in 1 million, compared to one in 50,000 for Touch ID. Let’s take Apple’s word for it.

Besides using it to unlock your screen, Face ID affords you another benefit, the ability to purchase stuff at retail (and online) by using a payment technology known as Apple Pay. By holding the phone in a store near a compatible contactless reader, you merely need to glance at the screen to authenticate a transaction. Apple has forged partnerships with leading credit card companies, banks, and merchants, with more partners added all the time. You won’t have to use Face ID as a shortcut to enter web account names or passwords.

A feature known as iCloud Keychain keeps your credit cards and passwords encrypted and saved on your iPhone and other approved devices, and handles the autofill chores on many of the websites you might visit. And at your discretion, you can use your iPhone passcode as your iCloud security code when you set up iCloud Keychain on a new device. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

To set up Face ID, you must first let your iPhone know your face and your face alone, because the system can handle only one mug at a time. (You can always change which person’s mug later.)

Apple says Face ID works in the dark or if you change your look: add or remove facial hair, wear glasses, wear a hat, or whatever.

To change the face used for Face ID after the initial setup, tap Settings → Face ID & Passcode and enter your current passcode. Then tap Reset Face ID → Set Up Face ID. The phone instructs you to position your face in a camera frame and then move your head in a circular fashion so that the outline of the frame turns green. Then repeat the setup drill just described. That’s it. In our experience, the entire Face ID thing shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds.

Face ID iPhone X
Face it: Face ID keeps your iPhone X secure.

Two more Face ID settings are worth noting. The first is Require Attention for Face ID switch. When enabled, you need to be looking at the display before the phone unlocks, which might prevent your kids from getting past the Lock screen while you’re sleeping, just by pointing the phone at your face. The second is an Attention Aware Features switch in which the TrueDepth camera on your phone checks for your attention before dimming the display or lowering the volume of alerts.

Whether you choose to set up facial authentication now, later, or not at all, you need to establish an old-fashioned passcode. You can go with a four-digit numeric code, a longer custom numeric code, or a longer alphanumeric code. In fact, if you do opt to go with Face ID, you must set up a passcode as a backup should the iPhone fail to recognize your face. Hey, it happens.

And you still need to type a passcode when you first power up your phone after it has been turned off.