Bloomberg: Apple told suppliers they could reduce face recognition accuracy to ease manufacturing

UPDATE: As you’d expect, Apple responded:

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.

There’s no room for interpretation here. The Face ID accuracy remains the same. Nothing has changed. Calling out Bloomberg’s report as completely false is a strong, necessary statement. A black eye for Bloomberg.

Alex Webb and Sam Kim, Bloomberg:

As of early fall, it was clearer than ever that production problems meant Apple Inc. wouldn’t have enough iPhone Xs in time for the holidays. The challenge was how to make the sophisticated phone—with advanced features such as facial recognition—in large enough numbers.

As Wall Street analysts and fan blogs watched for signs that the company would stumble, Apple came up with a solution: It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture, according to people familiar with the situation.


The company’s decision to downgrade the accuracy of its Face ID system—if only a little—shows how hard it’s becoming to create cutting-edge features that consumers are hungry to try.

If the facial recognition tech still works, this is not an issue. If facial recognition works well enough to not be fooled by all but the most unique situations (twins, for example), this is not an issue.

If reducing accuracy allows Apple to ship, this (if true) is a logical decision. It’s what businesses do. The key is to compromise without reducing quality to the point where it breaks. I think Apple would eat the delay before they shipped an iPhone X that didn’t meet their security standards.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of iPhone (and other Apple product) shortages that lasted months, with demand outstripping supply. I don’t believe Apple would risk the iPhone X reputation by shipping an iPhone X with less-than-effective facial recognition.