Craig Federighi’s first Face ID attempt: Glitch, or simple logistics flub?

During yesterday’s iPhone X demo, Craig Federighi walked across the stage and picked up an iPhone X, with the goal of demonstrating Face ID.

Things did not go as planned. Craig looked at his iPhone X, swiped up, and…nothing. He tried again, and the passcode screen appeared. Craig, being the cool customer he is, picked up a second iPhone X, swiped up, and the demo went smoothly from there.

So what happened? Was this a failure of Face ID?

Take a look for yourself. Head over to the Apple keynote page, and jump to about 1:36:00, the moment when all this unfolded.

To me, the key to this moment was the text on the screen. Here’s a screenshot:

Notice the text towards the bottom:

Your passcode is required to enable Face ID

Looks like a logistics issue. Just as you have to enter your passcode to unlock your phone for the first time after restart (to enable Touch ID), you have to do the same for the iPhone X, to enable Face ID.

I suspect no one entered the passcode after the phone was turned on. Not a failure of Face ID, just a simple logistics fumble.

In addition, this moment showed off Craig Federighi’s excellent stage presence. He handled the moment perfectly.

UPDATE: As a number of people have pointed out, if this was a restart issue, the text would have indicated that. Hoping for clarification from Apple on this, will update if we get more info.

  • And, at the end of the day, the phone’s not shipping for another month and a half and the software is beta. Besides, TouchID wasn’t 100% perfect the first time out the gate, so the software will improve over iterations.

  • JimCracky

    This marks the end of Apple. The circle campus will be turned into a terminal for the hyper loop.

    • ESKEMA

      It shall be called Infinite Hyper Loop Station

  • Bob G

    Just the other day I noticed that the spell checker on my MacBook knows how to spell “Federighi”. That’s interesting by itself, but maybe they can work that into the system if Face ID doesn’t work out for Craig. It must be the hair. 🙂

    • Mo

      His hair must have been interfering with the cellular signal.

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  • I agree, he handled that bump very well and recovered instantly.

  • GS

    If there was a logistics fumble, then Federighi is the one ultimately responsible. I bet at the next talk with Gruber he owns it.

  • Alienseamonkey

    I felt a great disturbance in the theater, as if millions of Apple Employees suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

  • jaymbee

    However, when I restart my iPhone on iOS 11 and go to use Touch ID, the message actually reads “Touch ID requires your password when iPhone restarts. So the message on Craig’s iPhone X is different, and is the one that appears when Touch ID needs to be re-authenticated after a period. Had the iPhone X been left inactive for a sufficient length of time to cause this? Or did Face ID fail to the point where it had tried enough times and gave up, and then asked for the passcode?

    • James Hughes

      I am not sure either.

      When my iPhone fails to recognize Touch ID the message the first time is “Touch ID or enter passcode” then on a second failure “Touch ID does not recognize your fingerprint”. After the second message I HAVE to use my passcode. With a restart the message is “Touch ID requires your password when iPhone restarts as you wrote.

      There is no “Your passcode is required to enable Touch ID” that I have seen anyway.

      • GS

        I have seen this exact message. My (guess) is that Face ID crashed and that is the message.

      • Janak Parekh

        There is a timeout for touch ID that generates exactly this message (IIRC). It’s something like 24-48 hours. It doesn’t happen that often for me, but on some days I’m using mostly my Apple Watch, going to bed early, etc. and the next day I get this without the restart text.

  • Deep Dive Guides

    What’s more concerning for me is what Craig did to try and get around the issue.

    He tried to lower and re- raise the phone and he tried to turn it to sleep and back awake again using the side button. These are all significant and time-consuming movements. It all looked very clumsy.

    Contrast this with what we all do when TouchID seems to fail or behaves oddly… we simply press our thumb down again. Simple and Quick and Instinctive.

    The stark comparison between FaceID and TouchID is also apparent when trying to use Apple Pay. With FaceID you have to double-tap the side button, then hold the phone to your face to make sure it’s unlocked, then tap the phone near the reader – that’s 3 significant and clumsy actions. With TouchID we simply double-tap the Home button simultaneously with tapping the phone near the reader -a simple, quick, fluid single gesture.

    I think Apple wanted to include TouchID In the iPhone X but couldn’t solve the technical problems, so now they’re putting a brave face (sic) on FaceID and trying to spin it as a better solution when it clearly isn’t.

    • i don’t think it’s “clearly” a less good solution at all. in fact i think it will take next to no effort to use face authentication with apple pay, since i’m already looking at my phone when using it, so there’s no added step at all.

      • double tap side button
      • (already looking at it)
      • waive over NFC contact
    • My iPhone 6S brings up my Wallet app as soon as I bring it near the pay terminal. Then I select the card to use if I have to and then I touch the TouchID. IT’s a bit fiddly, but not so much unless it fails (hasn’t for me yet — but I haven’t used ApplePay to buy something extremely expensive that gave me sweaty thumbs 🙂 ).

      My assumption would be an iPhone X and iOS 11 will do the same (bringing u the wallet when you hold it near the terminal) while simultaneously checking your face, so it’s all done in one smooth motion.

    • spazsquatch

      “Contrast this with what we all do when TouchID seems to fail or behaves oddly”

      Put my phone on the counter, pull my sleeve over my thumb with my free hand and rub clean the home button. Easy peasy.

    • “These are all significant and time-consuming movements. It all looked very clumsy.”

    • cyclonus5150

      A solution as sophisticated as Apple’s implementation of face biometrics is absolutely NOT a fall back option. It was readily apparent yesterday that Apple spent a great deal of time pouring resources and focus into the development of Face ID. It was every bit their intention – replace Touch ID with Face ID on iPhone X. The “Apple couldn’t get Touch ID to work under the screen so they scrambled” narrative is kinda ridiculous, especially now that we know how Face ID works.

  • Blake S.

    I’ve seen my iPad require a passcode to enable touch ID if I haven’t logged in for a while and not have the restart message on it. It’s my work iPad so there may be something with the way it’s administered. Either way he handled it very well!

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  • BC2009

    What if the issue here was “too many failed attempts” — as in “too many people looked at the screen and failed”…. If the new iPhone is going to count anybody looking at your screen as a “failed attempt” that can be annoying. You won’t want to show off your new iPhone to anybody because while they look at it they could be running through your failed attempts.

  • Brandon

    Looks like a simple logistical oversight than a major technical issue to me. There is nothing on the screen indicating an error like occurs with TouchID.

    Don’t spend too much time worrying about this, we will know in a couple of months when the iPhone X launches just how good the FaceID is.

  • Chris Rawson

    This same message will show up on Touch ID-enabled iPhones if the device is inactive and locked for more than 8 hours. I’d bet money that’s what happened here – the iPhone X was sitting there untouched overnight, and the auto-lock triggered and required Craig’s passcode.

  • TwitMeThis

    If this was a logistics issue, and that is how it should function, then he did not handle the moment perfectly; I would say he handled it poorly. He could have explained it as a feature, working the same as TouchID. That would have been a positive. Instead it appears as it it was not working as expecting and the world sees the first demo of it as a fail and given the impression you might have to move your head around to get it to work. Not many people have backup phones ready to go. I’m curious in the video of the event if they later released if they left that moment in or edit it out.

    As for the comment about this being beta, the GM is available so I certainly hope they weren’t running a demo with older software.

  • Of course, we now know the phone was scanning faces of people handling it and locked out.

    I think this is a feature that should be removed. Scanning faces is not an active thing like scanning a fingerprint. This will be a giant pain in the ass.

    Either that, or it needs to be made intentional.