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Face ID, Windows Hello, and more: facial recognition UI is terrible

Before everyone starts hating me in the comments section.

Face ID options on the iPhone X

Face ID is great. It's the hot new kid on the block, and everyone is ranting and raving about it, since it comes shipped on the shiny new iPhone X (it's pronounced ten) that Apple just launched. I'd have to agree, it's a cool piece of technology. Using a dot scanner for additional security and being extremely fast are some great benefits of Apple's Face ID unlock system. In sunlight, it's faster than Samsung's facial recognition system and Windows Hello, both which become interfered with the sun's own infrared light rays.

However, that's not the problem I have. The problem I have is the UI of all of these unlock systems. Of all of them, only Microsoft (and maybe OnePlus, now) gets it right, but it still has other shortcomings. Microsoft's Windows Hello is not available on most computers, and is more than just IR scanning. It's the name that encompasses all of the possible biometric unlock systems available on Windows 10, of which I believe are two: IR scanning and fingerprint unlock. For the purposes of this post, I'll be referring to only the IR scanning when naming Windows Hello. In the future, I may do a segment on fingerprint sensors, as that's something Apple definitely gets right, and Microsoft gets wrong.

Let's talk about Face ID first.

It's great. It's fast. I already said that. But there are so many small things that I simply don't understand. (Anyone willing to let me borrow an iPhone X? I'm missing screenshots for these even though I swear I took them during my review period.) For example, on the lockscreen, if I swipe up and it hasn't recognized my face yet, there should be an option to enter the passcode right away, rather than wait for the face ID system to fail, then present me with the passcode lock.

OnePlus 5T passcode prompt

The OnePlus 5T gets it right on that front. If the face recognition system on the phone hasn't recognized me yet, I should be able to enter the passcode to get in right away. Or if I'm not the owner of the phone, I should still be able to enter the passcode to get in. Apple, if you're going to limit people to one face register, at least make it easier for people other than that one person to unlock the phone.

It also looked like OnePlus copied Google. OnePlus 5T Face Unlock, released this year, looks like the feature Google released on August 4th, 2015. Trusted Face came with the introduction of Android 5.0, and 3 release cycles later we have additional phones coming out with face recognition systems.

OnePlus 5T's Face Unlock vs. Google's Trusted Face

Don't they look similar?

The other difference between OnePlus's and Google's implementation is that while Google uses image recognition, OnePlus claims to use 100 facial points (sound familiar? yeah, Apple claims to have 30,000). But Google's implementation works on Android 5.0. That's 79% of all Android devices. Not including countries China and India where many people tend to have cheap $10 phones that still run outdated versions of Android, that number comes to 98%. So 98% of Android phones already have Trusted Face. Can't find it? It's in your security or passcode settings, under Smart Lock. On some phones, you might have to access it through the Google Settings menu, especially if you have a phone where the manufacturer tried to disable it.

But both Apple and Google got it wrong. Face unlock should work as soon as I try to wake the device. If I'm looking at the device, it should unlock immediately. While I understand Apple's security feature of looking at the device to see notifications, I would argue that Apple needs to fix the notification system first.

Dynamic notifications in Android Oreo

Go on. Copy Android. Not like it's happened before. iOS needs a working notifications system, not just one that's beautifully designed. No one's going to use a notifications system that's impossible to use.

More Android Oreo notifications

It's not just me, either. Plenty of people have problems with the notification system. Sure, you can say all you want about iOS vs. Android, but what happened to cohesiveness? I can no longer swipe to reveal a notification on iOS. I have this problem. Or that problem. But this is not a discussion about the notifications on iOS and Android. We can save that for a later date.

This is a discussion about face unlock.

Windows Hello

Microsoft understands the importance of quickly unlocking your device.

As soon as I open my laptop, I'm logged in. Windows Hello is that fast. It's beautifully designed, and saves me seconds in my workflow. But it has its problems too. Windows Hello isn't integrated into anything other than the lockscreen.

On Android, or iOS, or other systems, I can use biometric unlock methods (Smart Lock does not do this on Android) as methods of securing information, credit cards, or other data. But I can't using Windows Hello. Even with the fingerprint scanner, which is supposed to be more secure. Microsoft, where is the integration?

I don't know. I don't have a solution. Or maybe I do. But I know I have suggestions. And these are suggestions from someone who had an iPhone X. And a Nexus 6P. And a Microsoft Surface.

Final Thoughts

Even though I can't speak for the unlock method on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, or Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+/Note 8, or a myriad of other devices, I can speak for the devices I own.

I also think being able to unlock your computer with your phone is cool. But with my current laptop, I need a Samsung phone for that.

And I don't have that. But I know what I have.

Thank you.

Gideon Tong