When Tim Cook announced the iPhone X and Face ID, he famously said there was only a 1 in a million chance that it would mistake you for a random stranger, saying “Unless you have an evil twin you’re safe.”
At the time this was taken as somewhat of a joke, with twitter quipping:
So, your evil twin can now unlock your iPhone X?
— Basil King (@basilsblog) September 12, 2017
It turns out Tim Cook was deadly serious, and your twin does not have to be evil to unlock your phone.
Mashable tested the Face ID with 2 identical twins and both were able to unlock an iPhone X registered to their brother without issue. It is notable that unlike their faces twins do not share fingerprints, meaning the latest iPhone has suddenly become either a lot less convenient or a lot less secure for identical twin households.
Apple uses an older and less precise version of the Kinect technology to create a 3D map of a user’s face, and Apple has said the system will adapt to the user over time, becoming more tolerant (and presumably less specific) as it adapts to the changing appearance of a user. There have also been allegations (denied by Apple) that they intentionally increased the tolerance of the Face ID system to improve the manufacturing yield of the depth sensor.
It is notable that Windows Hello cameras are easily able to distinguish between twins when tested by another publication with 6 sets of identical twins.
” It could distinguish between us two quite easily It could distinguish between us two quite easily,” one of the twins, Miriam Jeffrey, told The Australian. “It’s a little surprising, I thought it would have failed, but no, it was really good, it was really quick.”
While Apple claims Face ID is their most secure biometric system yet, it seems likely that like most of such systems, despite Apple’s protestations, that it will only be a matter of time before it is trivially bypassed by the right kind of mask, particularly if tolerances are set as low as they appear to be.
With the iPhone X’s Face ID appearing to be more trouble than it’s worth, it may be time to take a look again at the unpopular and currently discounted iPhone 8 Plus, which after all offers more actual screen real estate, no annoying notch and a time-proven and reliable fingerprint sensor.
See the Mashable Face ID twin test below.