What is the difference between Touch ID and Face ID?

Understand what Touch ID and Face ID are and learn the difference between these two iPhone authentication methods.

Every modern iPhone has a biometric authentication, which only unlocks the device when it confirms that the real owner is the one who is operating.

This is possible because the system recognizes a part of the user’s body: either the fingerprint or the face, depending on the device model.

See in this article what is Touch ID and what is Face ID, knowing the differences, advantages and defects of each one of them.

What is Touch ID

Touch ID was born out of the need to unlock the iPhone screen without having to ask for the code or password.

It is a fingerprint, located under the front button of some models. With it, it is very simple to unlock the phone, simply supporting the finger on the button, easily and quickly. It is all so natural and intuitive that the user does not even remember that there is a digital scanner there.

It was introduced on the iPhone 5s in 2013 and quickly established itself as a reliable and fast way to safely unlock the iPhone.

It is possible to register up to 5 fingerprints, which may be from different hands or even from someone else, like a relative.

For security, Touch ID will be disabled and the iPhone will always ask you to enter the device password again when:

  • IPhone restarts
  • The iPhone screen has not been unlocked for more than 48 hours
  • After 5 failed attempts to identify the fingerprint
  • The user has not used the code or password to unlock the device in the last 156 hours (six and a half days) and the user has not used a biometric to unlock the device in the last 4 hours.
  • Each time a new finger is configured
  • When iCloud locks the device

According to Apple, the probability that a random person among the population will be able to unlock a user’s iPhone, iPad or Mac is 1 in 50,000 with the Touch ID.

»Touch ID weaknesses

  • does not work with wet fingers
  • does not work if the finger is cut in the digital area
  • does not work with anything that covers fingerprints (like sports gloves or armbands)
  • some people have difficulties in recognition (specific cases)

What is Face ID

Face ID authenticates by making 3-dimensional reading of the face of user. Through infrared light beams, the system is able to draw a facial map and determine if it is really the owner. According to Apple, it is much safer as a method of identification.

The technology was created by the Israeli company PrimeSense, who initially offered it to Apple, but was dismissed by Steve Jobs. So Microsoft licensed it under the name of Kinect, adding interactivity to the Xbox. In 2013, under Tim Cook, Apple acquired the PrimeSense precisely to develop a facial recognition system.

The camera system was improved and renamed TrueDepth. The possibility of tracing a 3D image of the face allows to create photos with depth, in addition to the creation of Memoji, the characters that repeat the movements of the face.

Animoji - Face ID - TrueDepth

This recognition in 3 dimensions is more efficient than other solutions presented by the competition. For example, it does not allow you to unlock the device using a photo or video.

»Face ID weaknesses

  • does not work when the iPhone is too close to the face
  • does not work if the iPhone has a horizontal screen
  • does not recognize the face with sanitary mask
  • if the iPhone is on the table, you need to stretch your face in front of the device to work

Secure Enclave on iPhone

Both Touch and Face ID have the same security system behind them, associated with an internal coprocessor called a Secure Enclave.

This chip is directly associated only with that device in which it is placed during manufacture. Therefore, it is not possible to take it out of one device and place it in another, nor to buy the piece individually on Chinese websites, as it will not work.

That is why technical assistance not authorized by Apple is unable to repair iPhones 5s with the damaged front button or a faulty Touch ID, as the entire device needs to be replaced.

Secure Enclave is a secure coprocessor that includes a hardware-based key manager, which is isolated from the main processor to provide an extra layer of security. The key data is encrypted in the system on the Secure Enclave chip (SoC), which has a random number generator.

It should be noted that all biometric information is on the device. Nothing is sent to Apple, neither digital records nor facial recognition information. That’s why when you restore your iPhone, you need to register your fingers or face all over again, as none of that is kept in the backup or on the servers.

For this reason, the biometric security of the iPhone (either through Touch ID or Face ID) is considered one of the strongest in a cell phone.