In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons →

July 31, 2019 · 08:14

Paul Mozur, reporting for The New York Times:

The police officers wrestled with Colin Cheung in an unmarked car. They needed his face.

They grabbed his jaw to force his head in front of his iPhone. They slapped his face. They shouted, “Wake up!” They pried open his eyes. It all failed: Mr. Cheung had disabled his phone’s facial-recognition login with a quick button mash as soon as they grabbed him.

Apple is not always on point but their implementations of Touch ID and Face ID are spot on.

Apple Working on Updated Macs →

February 3, 2018 · 16:31

Mark Gurman, for Bloomberg:

Apple is working on at least three updated Mac models with custom co-processors for release as soon as this year, including updated laptops and a new desktop, according to a person familiar with the plan.

We have the T1 in the Touch Bar MacBooks with Touch ID, the T2 in the iMac Pro, and I can’t help but wonder if the the next generation chip (or perhaps the current T2) will introduce Face ID to macOS. I have been living with this tech on my iPhone X for w few months now and it’s so much better than Touch ID, especially during winter, when I often have gloves on. Granted, I wouldn’t have this problem with a Mac, but by constantly and transparently authorising the user whenever a password is required, even when the Mac is already unlocked, should make things much more secure.

“Face ID Is a Mistake Disguised as Courage” →

December 28, 2017 · 12:39

Paul Thurrott’s piece on the iPhone X caught my eye because of his take on Apple’s design decisions:

Apple’s iPhone X is chock-full of new technologies and features, and it has a modern, elegant design that I feel will stand the test of time. But it is also more expensive than any other mainstream smartphone. And it has a few bad design choices that may limit its appeal.

My own complaints are mainly focused around iOS 11 itself, but I was curious on Paul’s take.

[…] some smartphones even offer more technically impressive designs. Samsung’s flagships offer displays that gracefully curve around the edges of the device, creating a truly bezel-less effect. And few phones stick an ungainly notch into the top of the display, ruining the infinity pool effect.

I spent a month with the S8 and S8+ — they are impressive — but if there was one thing I wish they didn’t have, it’s the curved glass. Terrible, terrible decision.

The notch is a problem. We must discuss the notch.

The notch is the wrong decision, and it’s one that Apple, and iPhone users, will now need to deal with for years. And it is the wrong decision on a number of levels.

From a looks perspective, the notch is an unnecessary, jarring interruption of an otherwise beautiful looking visual design. There is an elegance to the curves of the display and the surrounding frame, which match each other perfectly … except for that notch. It’s an affront. An intrusion. And despite assurances from some others I know who own the iPhone X—opinions differ on this one, apparently—you never really do get used to it. It’s like a mote in your eye, always in the way.

It is an affront, but at the same time, strangely enough, I barely notice it.

Apple should have done what Samsung did with its 2017 flagships, what OnePlus did with the 5T, and what virtually all other smartphone makers will do when they adopt this more design in other devices: Just put a bit of bezel at the top of the device. There is no need to intrude into the display.

I’m sure they considered this, but the iPhone would then look like every other phone on the market. My friend recently held up an LG V30 and even seeing it up close, I had to look for the logo — I thought it was the new Samsung set to ship in January.

But design is about more than just looks. Design also encompasses how a thing works. And notch or not, Apple needed some space at the top of the device to house the optical elements that were required for the iPhone X’s terrible Face ID technology.

Terrible? This will be interesting.

And Face ID is terrible by any meaningful metric. I’ll get into this more in the Security section of this review. But the short version is that this design is an unnecessary compromise and inconvenience. A rear-mounted fingerprint reader would have been hugely preferable. This is the iPhone X’s version of the missing headphone jack: A mistake disguised as courage.

Face ID has thus far, subjectively, surpassed all my expectations, beating Touch ID in every single “metric”. Which are the “meaningful” ones, I wonder?

It’s a shame that it needs to be protected with a case. Which it does, given its slippery and non-durable all-glass design.

Still rocking mine without a case1. It’s also notably less slippery than the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

To display the App Switcher, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and hold.

You don’t need to hold. Just arc your gesture and the App Switcher will appear. This was a huge mistake on Apple’s part, when they demoed the iPhone X gestures during the keynote.

To access Control Center, you now swipe down from the top right of the screen. This is, of course, different from all other iOS-based devices, where you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access this interface. But it’s easily learned.

This is the one gesture which is terrible beyond words.

Since Paul doesn’t mind, we obviously have completely different points of view.

The iPhone X display features HDR capabilities plus Apple’s excellent True Tone technologies, which subtly and dynamically color the display to match the light in your surroundings. This is the best implementation of this kind of thing I’ve ever seen—it debuted on the iPad Pro—and it makes reading, especially, delightful no matter where you are at the time.

Whenever I see a screen without True Tone now, I cringe. It’s that good.

The problem with this approach is that great low-light cameras, like that in the Pixel 2 XL, actually use the darkness to great effect: Instead of lighting up the scene, they let you tap to focus on a lit area and create a much more attractive—and sometimes even surreal—photo in which colors and lights pop in the darkness. With the iPhone X, all you usually get is a scene that is as evenly lit as possible, given the conditions.

If Paul bothered to tap the screen, focusing on the light bulb in the iPhone shot, he would have gotten the same effect. Proof below.

Portrait Lighting only works with the selfie camera.

Nope. It works with the rear cameras too.

Apple’s use of facial recognition is inarguably the most controversial aspect of the iPhone X. It is also, I think, the iPhone X’s Achilles Heel.

Yes, Face ID works as good, if not better than, any facial recognition system I’ve used. But it’s not particularly fast or convenient when you factor in the time and effort it takes to actually sign-in: You also need to swipe up on the screen in order to actually access the home screen or whatever app you were previously using. It’s tedious.

Effort? What effort? I already have the phone in front of me — the rest is automatic.

I start swiping before the iPhone is in front of my face, in a position where I always hold smartphones. Face ID does the rest in the background. You don’t have to wait for Face ID to unlock before you start swiping.

Worse, it’s time-consuming: Face ID is not nearly as fast as using the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that Apple placed on previous iPhones. And in denying users that option—it could have, and should have, simply put Touch ID on the back of the iPhone X—it has created an all or nothing dilemma for customers. Face ID is easily the worst thing about the iPhone X. Easily.

It’s faster in the 48 days that I’ve used it, even more so when I take into account all the situations when Touch ID fails (multiple times per day). Face ID has failed me twice so far. Not bad. And it’s easily the best new feature of the iPhone X. Easily.

And you will need to use Face ID. To sign-in to your device, over and over again. To use Apple Pay. To approve purchases in the Store. Until of course, you can’t: For reasons I can’t quite explain, I’ve had to type in my Apple ID password—my freaking password, in 2017—more on the iPhone X than I have in years.

Once a Touch ID iPhone was unlocked, the user could get into almost everything, including signing into websites, whose passwords were stored in iCloud Keychain. Not so on the X. Before the iPhone X pastes in your login data, in Safari for example, it verifies that the user is still the owner of the phone. This additional security is priceless.

God, I miss Touch ID.

I don’t. And I can’t wait for Face ID on the iPad and Mac.

Video playback is problematic too, thanks to the notch. You have two choices: You can let the notch intrude into the video, as shown here.

Or you can crop it so that there are black bars on both sides. No, neither is ideal.

This is the result of going to taller that 16:9 screens, which Paul earlier calls “correct”:

Granted, other smartphone makers delivered what is now correctly viewed as the standard for modern flagships—tall, 18:9-ish displays with tiny bezels—well before Apple did with the iPhone X.

Come on Paul, every single taller or wider than 16:9, depending on orientation, screen is going to exhibit this behaviour.

There is no way around this: The iPhone X is expensive. Too expensive, I think.

I completely agree. To some, the price is justifiable, but not to most. I don’t consider the X to be worth the $1430 it costs in Poland. Not even close.

Compared to other flagships smartphones, the iPhone X is crazy-expensive. You can get an excellent Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ at a steep discount right now, and these devices feature even more impressive displays than Apple’s offering.

More impressive only considering it’s discounted to half the price of the X. If we remove the pricing factor, it is not superior.

I understand that these are Paul’s subjective views on the X, but I just cannot comprehend how he sees Face ID as the Xs biggest weakness.

  1. Touch wood.

iPhone X Facial Recognition Will Not Meet Expectations →

October 30, 2017 · 16:40

Paul Thurrott:

Well, now it’s going with plan C. Which is to seed the press with the bad news that this technology does not work very well. In doing so, it can temper expectations for the product and assure that only its most-forgiving fans will buy an iPhone X, preventing the public embarrassment of rampant complaints.

“Apple 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,” Bloomberg reported. “A less accurate Face ID will still be far better than the existing Touch ID [but] the company’s decision to downgrade the technology for this model shows how hard it’s becoming to create cutting-edge features that consumers are hungry to try.”

I’m sorry, what? “A less accurate Face ID will still be far better than the existing Touch ID”? That cannot be true. Touch ID is fantastic. Even a full-working Face ID would likely not be as good.

I’m sorry, what?

Nobody outside of Apple has yet publicly tested this technology (until today, when the first YouTube hands-on videos showed up — I wrote these words a few days ago). We know next to nothing how it will realistically function in the real world. Apple has denied Bloomberg’s report, which is a rare step for them. I see this as Bloomberg getting the story either completely wrong, or completely right. However, until we get to test and compare it to Touch ID, we have essentially no viable information to use. Bloomberg could just as well be talking about the system that Apple showed off at the last keynote — the allegedly “downgraded” one. Or not.

Both Bloomberg’s and Paul’s articles are just clickbait at this point, making assumptions which are pure conjecture and speculation.

About Face ID advanced technology →

October 19, 2017 · 12:21

Apple published a support document, detailing some interesting features and functions of Face ID.

Face ID automatically adapts to changes in your appearance, such as wearing cosmetic makeup or growing facial hair. If there is a more significant change in your appearance, like shaving a full beard, Face ID confirms your identity by using your passcode before it updates your face data. Face ID is designed to work with hats, scarves, glasses, contact lenses, and many sunglasses. Furthermore, it’s designed to work indoors, outdoors, and even in total darkness.

Face ID will be a problem for people who use anti-smog masks, which is pretty much most of Asia. This could be potentially solved by enrolling two faces — with and without a mask on — but as far I as understand, it is currently only possible to enroll one face per device. This could change in the future.

Face ID data – including mathematical representations of your face – is encrypted and protected with a key available only to the Secure Enclave.

The probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID). As an additional protection, Face ID allows only five unsuccessful match attempts before a passcode is required. The statistical probability is different for twins and siblings that look like you and among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend using a passcode to authenticate.

I would be extremely interested in seeing Face ID tested on twins. Luckily, I’m sure someone will attempt to.

Face ID matches against depth information, which isn’t found in print or 2D digital photographs. It’s designed to protect against spoofing by masks or other techniques through the use of sophisticated anti-spoofing neural networks. Face ID is even attention-aware. It recognizes if your eyes are open and looking towards the device. This makes it more difficult for someone to unlock your iPhone without your knowledge (such as when you are sleeping).

I won’t even try spoofing it with a photo, like I successfully spoofed my review Galaxy S8 — I’m pretty sure they got this covered.

Face ID data – including mathematical representations of your face – is encrypted and protected by the Secure Enclave. This data will be refined and updated as you use Face ID to improve your experience, including when you successfully authenticate. Face ID will also update this data when it detects a close match but a passcode is subsequently entered to unlock the device.

Face ID data doesn’t leave your device and is never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else.

Piece of mind.

Even if you don’t enroll in Face ID, the TrueDepth camera intelligently activates to support attention aware features, like dimming the display if you aren’t looking at your iPhone or lowering the volume of alerts if you’re looking at your device. For example, when using Safari, your device will check to determine if you’re looking at your device and turns the screen off if you aren’t. If you don’t want to use these features, you can open Settings > General > Accessibility, and disable Attention Aware Features.

Others have done this before, but it appears that Apple’s approach to implementing this feature is superior — at least it won’t pause playing video when a person looks away.

Within supported apps, you can enable Face ID for authentication. Apps are only notified as to whether the authentication is successful. Apps can’t access Face ID data associated with the enrolled face.

Craig Federighi already mentioned that apps not updated to support Face ID, but which support Touch ID, will work “out-of-the-box”.

The system will not cause any harm to eyes or skin, due to its low output. It’s important to know that the infrared emitters could be damaged during repair or disassembly, so your iPhone should always be serviced by Apple or an authorized service provider. The TrueDepth camera system incorporates tamper-detection features. If tampering is detected, the system may be disabled for safety reasons.

I’m sure some people will complain about issues with their TrueDepth camera being deactivated after an unauthorised screen exchange or some other service work, but I prefer to have piece of mind in this regard.

While I’m still not sold on Face ID — it could turn out to be a hassle — I’m very curious about the attention-aware features. Those could be a really nice perk.