Goodbye to the Home Button, Hello to Face ID; What Might This Mean for Blind and Low Vision iPhone Users?

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

With the announcement of Apple’s brand new iPhone X the blind and vision impaired community has been buzzing about one of the biggest changes to the iPhone, the removal of the Home button and the addition of Face ID. We have grown very comfortable with our familiar Home button. After all, it’s been a very consistent part of our smart phone that we use probably dozens of times a day to perform a variety of tasks since the iPhone 3GS. Change is scary and sometimes, especially when it comes to technology it can be far too easy to assume that we will be left out.

I totally get it. There are tons of “What if” situations. What if I keep my eyes closed too much? What if I have prosthetic eyes? What if I grow facial hair or change my hair color? These would all be reasonable questions if we were looking at any other company than Apple, but we are working with the most inclusive company there is. This is the company that made the very first out of the box accessible smart phone when it wasn’t popular or cost effective. This is the company that took the time to make videos featuring individuals with disabilities using their technology to live, work and play. This is a company that has an entire dedicated team committed to accessibility in every single device that they produce.

Apple takes care to include individuals with disabilities in everything that they do and Face ID will not be an exception. It is expected that Face ID will have dedicated settings that can be customized for accessibility settings including for use with VoiceOver. Given that this will be a brand new feature, however, I would expect that it won’t work perfectly every time for sighted and visually impaired individuals alike. When that happens, you will always be able to use a passcode to still be able to gain access to your phone.

I have also read concerns on social media about the security of FaceID. Apple stated that they literally scanned a billion images to make sure that security could not be compromised. It is not possible to trick the Face ID with a photograph of an individual to gain access because of the advanced 3D camera technology in the iPhone X camera.They only exception, which Apple acknowledged, is if you are a twin…which is understandable given that an identical set of twins would likely not be able to be distinguished by a machine.

Based on the history of Apple, once a new feature is introduced it tends to stay in subsequent models for years to come. Face ID is here to stay and as Apple stated in their Fall 2017 Special Event, this is the next standard for smart phones. Luckily, for those that still have reservations, there are plenty of iPhone models to choose from that will allow for the more traditional Touch ID and passcode security access.

What do you think about Face ID? Do you trust its security? Will this feature prevent you from purchasing an iPhone X? Let me know in the comments below.

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Submitted by Maldalain on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Don't think there will be any issue with FaceID. I have face recognition feature on my HP Windows laptop, and it has IR camera that detects my face. Windows Hello never failed me, I tried it in various situations; a photograph never replaces my face as the IR beams can identify whether what is being shown is a photograph or real human face depending on the temperature emitted from the object in front of the camera IR sensors, also tried it with my glasses, with my beard shaved and even with a photograph of me on a large LED screen. It has been always nice experience.

Submitted by John Covici on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I would find faceid a pain in the neck, at least for my usage pattern. I often need to unlock while the phone is in my pocket and faceid would make it impossible and typing the password would be difficult the way vo makes you do it. Also, its real nice to be able to reach over and just unlock without having to bring the phone to where my face is. So, I will not be getting the X. But what worries me is that will I always be stuck with some old model because I don't want faceid?

Submitted by Lysette Chaproniere on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Will turning on the accessibility settings make face ID less secure? As I understand it, without the accessibility settings turned on the iPhone will require the user to have their eyes open and be looking at the iPhone, so that someone couldn't access your phone by, say, pointing it at your face while you're asleep. But VO users don't have that extra security. So could someone unlock a VO user's phone just by pointing at their face? I don't see how this can be both accessible to all and equally secure for everyone.

Submitted by alex wallis on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I agree about the security of face ID it sounds like we as VoiceOver users are being expected to compromise security for the sake of accessibility, I know having the attention mode on or off is entirely optional but if you don't have a choice due to nature of visual impairment its no choice at all.
there is a feature where face or touch ID can be quickly disabled in ios 11, but of course say we are out and about we might not have time to activate it before its two late.
hopefully apple might be able to add both touch ID and face ID to the same phone in future, but I am not exactly happy about having to compromise my security just so I can use a feature. as others have said its also very convenient being able to just reach over and use touch ID.

Submitted by Jake on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We already know Face ID isn't perfectly reliable yet. It didn't work the first time for Mr. Schiller, even on stage. As for reliably activating the function that disables touch/face ID, we'll have exactly as much time to do that as anyone else since it simply involves pressing the side button five times in rapid succession.
While I don't think accessibility in Face ID will be a problem, I think I'd find it annoying personally. My phone is often on my desk, and I simply reach over with a finger to unlock it. Face ID would require that I pick up the phone which, depending on what situation you are in, might be undesirable or even rude.

Submitted by Jake on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm more worried that Apple will decide that we need yet another VO gesture for the home button instead of the single swipe-up from the bottom that others are getting. I like being able to operate my phone with one hand which I won't be able to do if I have to do something ridiculous like swipe up with four fingers. We'll just have to wait and see though.

Hi John,

That is a really good point about possibly having to always get out of date iOS devices in the future if you do not like Face ID. I think that just like Touch I'd he came standard on all iOS devices, Face I'd will likely become the standard probably in just 2 years or less.

Submitted by Serina Gilbert on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

It will be interesting to see the full integration of vo gestures on the iPhone X. Perhaps Apple will provide haptic feedback or more 3D gestures. Only time will tell.

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Although the iPhone X seems like a wonderful phone, given it's high price tag, I am most likely going to stick with the Iphone 8 Plus, as I am not ready to trust Face ID over Touch ID. Not that Face ID is a bad thing, but for me, I would rather wait until the technology has been out in the wild before using it. Heck, I just recently started using Apple Pay and that has been out for over a year.

Submitted by Kareem Dale on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Club AppleVis Member

I recognize that face ID is more secure and it's probably the future for Apple products. But, it struck me during the 9/12 event that face ID absolutely is not quicker an easier for things like Apple Pay. The presenter tried to sell that point but I'm not buying. With touch ID, I can in one motion hold my phone by the payment reader with my finger on the home button and within a couple seconds, my purchase goes through and that's it. Now, with face ID, it appears that I am forced to click the side button twice, bring the device in front of my face to authenticate and then put the device by the payment reader so that's at least 3 steps instead of one. Face ID for things like Apple Pay is not more intuitive and it's certainly not easier.

Submitted by Marconius on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Considering how long it generally takes to set up a selfie with the front camera and listening to VO to get the right angle, FaceID just seems like it will take longer to get right compared to a simple finger press. None of the new features for both the 8 and the X are particularly interesting nor not all that groundbreaking especially in terms of overall accessibility. The best thing Apple can do now is to put the new A11 bionic chip into the SE models and keep them onboard in the product line. Touch ID is quick and easy and security just has never been that much of a concern with it despite the statistics they produced, and I really don't care for the wireless lifestyle they keep pushing; I like my headphone jack and the SE form factor and nothing they've been releasing is making me want to upgrade.

Submitted by Toonhead on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I totally understand what some of you guys are saying about the security, or lack thereof? with face ID for VoiceOver users. But let me put this question to you, do you guys have any better ideas? We asked if Apple had a solution to the problem of people who never kept their eyes open, or had prosthetics or other eye conditions that might prevent Face ID from working as it should, and Apple came back with the solution of turning off the pay attention feature in accessibility settings. Just the fact that they even considered that idea, before any of us asked about it should speak volumes about Apple as a company, and how forward thinking they are when it comes to making their products accessible to blind and visually impaired folks. The nice part is if you don't want to use Face id, you don't have to. No one's forcing you to. You can buy an iPhone 8 or 8 plus and have wireless charging and a better camera plus all kinds of other stuff i'm obviously forgetting. Sure you won't have all the other features but at this point, some folks, like myself just aren't quite ready to shell out that kind of cash, or even use Face ID. I'm very, very happy with my iPhone 7 for now and when it's time for an upgrade for me, I'll probably go with the 8. It is so good to have choices. Choices are a good thing guys, so please remember that when considering this stuff.

Submitted by jrjolley (not verified) on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

As someone who is entirely iPad only, I have no concerns. In fact, I use all the jestures for manipulating apps and going home entirely on my 12.9 iPad pro, only using the home button for TouchID.I will certainly be getting the 10 because I have had the 5S for years and need something new. It's interesting, I use my iPad more than I ever did my iPhone because it is more like an actual computer. Looking forward to the real future.

Submitted by charles on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

During yesterday's keynote the specific wording was that you have to "look" at the iPhone 10 for face ID to work. To me, this means with eyes open. If I were to upgrade to that phone, which I will not be doing, this would prevent me from using this feature. If fingerprint ID were incorporated into the button that takes the place of the home button, I would be OK with it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It was mentioned that we could still access the phone through the use of a code, however, this would mean that I would have to have a set of ear buds if I, a Voice-Over user, do not want my password heard by others. As a user who hardly ever uses ear buds, I don't want to have to carry a set, plug it in, then enter my password. And I will not pay the high price for Apple's Ear Pods. Being totally blind since birth, I have no eye muscle control. I cannot open my eyes, nor can I make a face on demand, as I have never used my eyes and never seen what, for example, a smirk looks like. One feature of face recognition in the iPhone 10 is animated emojis. You can send an emoji that changes depending on whether you are wearing a happy, cross, or sad face for example. This won't be able to be done by someone like me. Also, notice that I am writing the phone model as 10 rather than X. I think this should clear up any confusion. The "X" is a roman numeral for 10. I am hearing people refer to the phone model as the letter "x", which is incorrect.

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I have read in other posts that Apple has possibly added a toggle in the Accessibility settings that would permit Facial ID to ignored closed eyes in order to unlock. So if this is the case, then that would solve the issue.

Although most of us call it the iPhone X, the "X" is the Roman numeral for 10, so we are still naming it correctly. Furthermore, many of the tech blogs, like and MacWorld are also calling it the iPhone X, even though Tim Cook called it the iPhone 10. So whether you call it the iPhone 10 or the iPhone X, it's the same thing.

Even more, Apple themselves call the Mac OS 10 "OSX", so again, doesn't really matter which way you write it.

Submitted by Toonhead on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The accessibility settings of iOS 11 will have a setting called Attention. Switching this off will allow a blind person to simply lift the iPhone to their face and it will unlock. This has been posted many times but somehow, some people always seem to miss it. Apple has us covered. Plus as has been previously stated, Face ID only appears on the iPhone x. If you don't want it, you don't have to get it. But I at least want people to be educated about what options they have.

Submitted by DudeLove721 on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In reply to by Jake

This is untrue. The reason the phone didn't unlock with face ID at the presentation yesterday is because it had either not been enabled after being turned on or was inactive for a long period of time. People paying close attention noticed that the notification that came up said that the passcode needed to be entered to enable face ID, that's all. There may still be bugs with it, the presentation didn't feature any though.

Submitted by DrummerGuy on Thursday, September 14, 2017

In fact, I believe that these changes are for the better. I welcome and embrace the new features. I thank Apple for always making sure that people with disabilities are able to have access to their devices.

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Thursday, September 14, 2017

I've got reservations about no home button. I've always used that to orienate myself with my ipad. Sometimes, I have had to give sighted users mainly my family my ipad for what ever reason. And sometimes I need to turn Vo. off to make life easier for them. Well, no matter how well-meaning they are sometimes they hand me my device in portrait mode or landscape with the home button to my left is more common. Had I not had my trusty home button, I would not be able to tell this.

Also, and this is more of a curiousity standpoint, how will we summon Siri? Or get to the app switcher? I know that we have the `hey Siri` feature, but the act of pressing the home button is 99% more reliable in my view at least.

Submitted by Alan on Thursday, September 14, 2017

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

well, it seems you will press three times the lock button to turn voiceover on and off the one on the right side of your device, and siri would be invocated by a long press of the same button' In fact, this button is larger on the iphone X, to make it easier to use' It's what I understood so far reading articles here and there'

Submitted by LaBoheme on Thursday, September 14, 2017

i recognize many of you prefer a positive spin on this, which is good, for being positive is always good. but if we could calm down a bit and really consider the pros and cons of face id.

specifically for visually challenged individuals as well as the general public. sure there will be work around. icons and GUI are designed for the sighted, and we have to re-engineer it so the screen is reversed to text elements so the blind can read it, something the GUId tries to abandon. does it solve the problem for us? yes, mostly; but it’s certainly not the first choice for us. i’m very realistic, the world is certainly not designed for us, so i’m not going to dwell on it. i’m saying this just to put things in context. the fact there is a way to disable the “pay attention” requirement for those who can’t reliably look at the camera is maybe a good work around, but is definitely nothing to celebrate about, because if that’s the only way you can use it, it means you have to sacrifice security, which is increasingly important when you carry your whole life on your phone.

now for the general public, despite apple touts it being more secure the touch id, the whole purpose is to increase screen size, the iphone x is shorter than the iphone 8 plus, and just a bit larger than the iphone 8. security is never a real consideration, no matter how apple and other companies want to spin it. and the fact they mentioned your twin brothers and sisters may be able to unlock your phone tells me the system is not as secure as it sounds. also the fact one can disable the “pay attention” factor tells me the system is not as advanced as i want it to be.

it real life, touch id is much secure, as least under current implementation and underlying technology in my opinion. one can always register an unlikely finger if there is any concern one may be forced to unlock the phone; and it’s not too difficult to force someone to look at something.

Submitted by Toonhead on Thursday, September 14, 2017

This is why it's so good that Apple is giving everyone choices. Don't like or trust Face ID? You don't have to use it, just get an iPhone 8 or 8 plus and it won't be there. For people with reservations about it or people who just plane don't believe they need such a feature, this seems to be the more sensible choice. For the trail blazers out there though, the iPhone x will be what they choose and they can report their findings once they get it. Relax folks, all will be good.

Submitted by Remy on Thursday, September 14, 2017

I cary many of the same concerns many others hold, as well as some additional ones I haven't 'herd. But I seriously doubt Apple would introduce a feature with such wide-ranging security implications without riggerous testing. I can't think of a feature Apple has implemented that hasn't worked out for the best. I'm not saying they're enfoulible, but I'll reserve judgement until the devices is actually out,a nd people have gotten a chance to play with it. One thing I am curious about though, with no besils, where the heck are the front camera and speakers?

Submitted by Kerby on Thursday, September 14, 2017

You hold down the lock button to use Siri.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Thursday, September 14, 2017

I wish all of these phones were going to be coming out at the same time in order to compare the features. I don't want to rush off to the Apple Store to get an 8 or 8 plus, only to realize two months later that yeah, this iPhone X was the way to go. Oh well.

Submitted by Serina Gilbert on Thursday, September 14, 2017

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by sockhopsinger

I wish they were all releasing at the same time too. I'd imagine that Apple has some serious supply issues or they would have released them all together....on the bright side however you can save $300 and get the phone with all of the cool technology the next go time you want to upgrade with the bugs worked out.

Submitted by bob jutzi on Friday, September 15, 2017

Not sure why some are insisting the Home Button is completely getting the ax. It will still be present in the iPhone 8 and SE isn't going away for the present; in fact, I read Apple is releasing a new SE early next year. Just saying for now, there are options.

Submitted by Larry on Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello everyone, I just wanted to put some perspective on a few things...

I am happy that Apple have included the option to disable "Attention Mode". I hear many people talk about the risk of someone pointing the camera to their face while they are sleeping... Firstly, if that is a serious security concern for you, there is always the option to make sure that you require a passcode the first time you unlock after you have gone to bed (I think Apple have included this in a shortcut in iOs 11). Secondly, if you are worried that a friend, family member, or partner will pick up your phone and unlock it while you sleep, then perhaps investing in trust-building activities is a better investment than an iPhone 10?

For those who are worried about that the phone wont be able to be unlocked since the phone is to close to the face, most likely the phone will already been unlocked before you can get the phone close enough for it to be a problem (my guess at least). Otherwise an easy solution is just to move the phone in a wider arc :)

There might be difficulties unlocking the phone if you are running around in an Halloween mask, but come on people! If you are at a party in the real world, hang out and talk with real people (at least that is what I do).

I am not a Face-ID fan myself, I have my reservations, but I also trust Apple to make sure that the Really Important features of a product is accessible. I am looking forward to November when we can play with the iPhone 10 in store, until then, take a breath and enjoy life :)

Not very concerned about Face ID they will work it out. Also here’s an article by MacRumors that might clear some confusion.

How Face ID Scans Your Face

Face ID is enabled through a TrueDepth front-facing camera on the iPhone X, which has multiple components. A Dot Projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to map its structure.

The dot map is then read by an infrared camera and the structure of your face is relayed to the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X and transformed into a mathematical model. The A11 chip then compares your facial structure to the facial scan stored in the iPhone X during the setup process.

As with Touch ID, if there is a match between the two face scans, the iPhone X will unlock. From there, you can swipe upwards to get to the Home screen.

Face ID in the Dark

Face ID uses infrared to scan your face, so it works in low lighting conditions and in the dark. The TrueDepth camera also has what Apple calls a "Flood Illuminator," aka an infrared light that illuminates your face in the dark so the dot map and the infrared camera can do their jobs.

Fooling Face ID

First of all, Face ID can't be fooled by a photo because it takes a 3D facial scan to unlock a device. Face ID is also "attention aware," a feature Apple implemented for extra security.

Face ID will only unlock your device when you look in the direction of the iPhone X with your eyes open, meaning Face ID only works when there's a live person in front of it. Attention aware is optional, though, and can be turned off if you choose. Most people will want to leave attention awareness on, but for users unable to focus their attention on the iPhone, turning it off will allow the iPhone X to unlock with just a facial scan.

Face ID is also sensitive enough to tell the difference between you and someone who is wearing a mask of your face. Apple trained Face ID with hyperrealistic masks created by Hollywood studios, ensuring a mask of a person wouldn't be able to fool the Face ID system.

According to Apple, Face ID is more secure than Touch ID because there are slimmer chances of a mismatch. There's a 1 in 50,000 chance someone will be able to unlock your iPhone with their fingerprint, but a 1 in 1,000,000 chance someone else's face will fool Face ID. That doesn't count for twins, though -- if you have an identical twin, that error rate increases.

Touch ID locks a device after five failed attempts, but with Face ID, Apple is only allowing two failed attempts. After two incorrect scans, the iPhone X will lock and require your passcode to unlock again.

Face ID With Hats, Beards, Makeup, and Glasses

Face ID works with hats, beards, glasses, scarves, and other accessories that partially obscure the face. According to Apple, this is because the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X uses machine learning and a neural engine to recognize changes in your appearance.

It's also likely that Face ID, like other facial recognition systems, has a match threshold that's below 100 percent, so even with part of the face not visible, it recognizes the part that is visible.

Face ID also adapts to changes in your appearance over time, so it will continue to recognize you as you grow a beard or grow your hair longer.

One caveat -- Apple doesn't mention sunglasses. There's a chance that Face ID doesn't work when wearing sunglasses because it obscures your eyes, and eye contact is required for unlocking the device. Attention aware can be disabled, though, so Face ID may work with sunglasses in that situation.

Face ID When Unconscious or Sleeping

If someone knocks you unconscious or attempts to unlock your iPhone X with your face while you're sleeping, it's not going to work.

As mentioned above, you need to look at your iPhone for Face ID to grant access to your device.

Face ID Privacy

On iPhones with Touch ID, your fingerprint data is stored in a Secure Enclave on the device, and the same is true of Face ID. Your facial map is encrypted and kept in the Secure Enclave, with authentication happening entirely on your device. No Face ID data is uploaded to iCloud or sent to Apple.

Multiple Faces in Face ID

When using Touch ID, multiple fingerprints can be added to a device so more than one person can unlock it. That is not possible with Face ID. Face ID makes a map of a single face and that's the only face that can unlock the iPhone X. To add a new face, the existing face must be removed.

Face ID at an Angle

You don't need to hold the iPhone X right in front of your face for it to make a Face ID scan. On stage at the keynote event, it was shown held at a comfortable viewing angle and held flat downwards while making an Apple Pay payment at payment terminal.

Face ID and Apple Pay

Face ID replaces Touch ID when authenticating Apple Pay purchases. When checking out with Apple Pay, a glance at the iPhone X will authenticate a payment, and a double click on the side button of the device will confirm it.

Face ID will also work in lieu of Touch ID for confirming iTunes payments, accessing secure apps, and more. All third-party apps that use Touch ID will also be able to use Face ID.

Face ID Special Features

With the "attention aware" feature, the iPhone X knows when you're looking at it. Face ID will display notifications and messages on the Lock screen when you look at the iPhone X, it will keep the screen lit, and it will automatically lower the volume of an alarm or ringer when it knows your attention is on the iPhone X's display.

Face ID Neural Engine

Face ID is powered by a two-core neural engine built into the A11 Bionic chip. It works in real time and can process more than 600 billion operations per second.

To train the neural engine, Apple used more than a billion facial images and created several neural networks.

Face ID Growing Pains

Touch ID was slow and imperfect when it first launched, and Face ID may not be perfect right away either. iPhone X hands-on reports were generally impressed with the Face ID feature, but there were some reports of problems with the feature not working until the display was turned on and off.

Apple will likely refine Face ID in software updates to further work out bugs, and future iPhones will undoubtedly come with more advanced Face ID systems that further improve the feature's functionality.

Apple says Face ID is the future of how we will unlock our smartphones, suggesting Face ID will be the de facto Touch ID replacement in devices going forward.

Related Roundup: iPhone X

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Original Article:

Also, if you are forced to unlock your phone you can squez the phone to disable Face ID

Submitted by ColinP on Saturday, September 16, 2017

In reply to by Lysette Chaproniere

Imagine a thief has taken your phone in the street. What's the stop them holding the phone in front of your Face to unlock it? Least with fingerprint ID they would have to grab hold of your hand first. In general I am in favour of face ID as I think it will come in the future anyway. I'm sure it will be everywhere cash machines et cetera. So I would like them to get security things ironed out now.

Submitted by Ahmed on Sunday, December 22, 2019

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

The IphoneX and later use gestures to launch Siri use the side button the sidebutton takes the functions previously done by the homebutton