A Bloomberg report today made claims that Apple had reduced its requirements from suppliers on the accuracy level of Face ID. Apple has issued a statement stating that the report is “completely false” and saying that it expects Face ID to be the new gold standard of facial authentication.
The statement from Apple:
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.
The Bloomberg piece contains a lot of reporting about the specific components and materials used to create the True Depth camera array that enables Face ID. It’s definitely interesting if you like component and supply chain drama, but some of it feels a lot like one component supplier complaining about another supplier (or bragging about how much better their yield is than another supplier.)
The central paragraph that Apple seems to be addressing with the statement is this one:
To boost the number of usable dot projectors and accelerate production, Apple relaxed some of the specifications for Face ID, according to a different person with knowledge of the process. As a result, it took less time to test completed modules, one of the major sticking points, the person said.
It’s not clear how much the new specs will reduce the technology’s efficacy. At the phone’s official unveiling in September, executives boasted that there was a one in a million chance that an interloper could defeat Face ID to unlock a phone. Even downgraded, it will probably still be far more accurate than Touch ID, where the odds of someone other than the owner of a phone being able to unlock it are one in 50,000.
The bit where it says ‘downgraded’ is likely the point that Apple felt compelled to reply to. The Bloomberg report says that Apple’s production schedule for the iPhone X was “very aggressive” which I understand to be accurate. As far as the specific claims about the Face ID system having ‘reduced’ accuracy, Apple says no.
In fact, if it were to have made claims about accuracy and not updated them before the phone released this year it would be on the hook to answer to that difference by consumer advocacy groups. Which also likely encouraged it to respond.
Face ID uses a 3D camera array built out of a variety of technologies Apple has acquired since 2013 or so and miniaturized for use in the iPhone X. The phone drops this week and Apple has taken some pains to point out that there will be in-store stock in 55 countries, after many reports of shortages. Typically, Apple launches in a dozen or so territories if it anticipates lower stock. Still, the iPhone X is expected to sell out.