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Apple: Face ID didn't fail at iPhone X launch, our staff did

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/09/2017 Alex Hern

During the iPhone X’s first ever public demonstration, Apple executive Craig Federighi failed in his attempt to unlock the device using the company’s new Face ID feature.: During the iPhone X’s first ever public demonstration, Apple executive Craig Federighi failed in his initial attempt to unlock the device using the company’s new Face ID feature. © AP During the iPhone X’s first ever public demonstration, Apple executive Craig Federighi failed in his initial attempt to unlock the device using the company’s new Face ID feature. Apple has offered an explanation for an embarrassing glitch at the launch of its most expensive iPhone ever, arguing that the phone didn’t make an error – the company’s staff did.

During the first ever public demonstration of the £999/£1,149 iPhone X, Apple executive Craig Federighi attempted to unlock the device using the company’s new Face ID feature, which scans a user’s face to ensure only they can unlock their phones. But the feature failed, bumping Federighi to an old-fashioned passcode entry screen and forcing him to switch to a backup phone.

Many assumed that the problem was that Face ID system failed to recognise Federighi. That would be a concerning prospect for a feature that is due to replace the company’s tried-and-tested Touch ID fingerprint reader on its flagship smartphone. But Apple says this was not the issue at all: instead, the company said far too many people were messing around with the phone backstage.

“People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time,” an Apple spokesperson told Yahoo, “and didn’t realise Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode. Face ID worked as it was designed to.”

The news will reassure those concerned that Face ID may not recognise their unique visage, but remains a warning sign for users who fear the feature won’t live up to Touch ID, since more chances for accidental activation means Federighi’s experience may be a common one.

While analysts seem bullish on Apple’s chances with the iPhone X against stiff competition from rivals Samsung and others, whether the lack of Touch ID will be seen as a step back for the iPhone X remains to be seen.

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