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Five years later, Face ID is still the iPhone’s worst feature

I dread unlocking my iPhone. Every time I lift my iPhone 13 mini to authenticate my face, I fear it won’t recognize me due to an off-kilter angle, sun ray obstruction, or some other hindering factor. Consequently, I’m forced to input my PIN. It’s especially a pain when I attempt to sign in to an account or buy an app. In those scenarios, it’s not just a few digits I have to punch in — I’m inconveniently prompted to type in my password manager or Apple ID’s 20-character alphanumeric code.

Face ID was supposed to be the future of authentication — a “fluid experience,” Apple promised in 2017. A decade later, it feels like nothing but a step back. When I switched to an iPhone, I knew that it would offer me a better, more reliable experience in many ways, but its facial-only biometric authentication and proprietary charging port would forever be the bane of my existence. I learned to live with the latter, partly thanks to wireless charging, but the former? That’s been a nightmare and a half. Hear me out.

Why Face ID is the iPhone’s worst feature

Face ID, for me, fails far more often than it should on a flagship smartphone. There’s an endless list of scenarios where Face ID refuses to work and throws an error: under direct sunlight, when sitting on my desk, while I’m wearing a mask (as well as glasses), off-kilter angles, right after I wake up — you get the idea. There are also times when I just can’t stare directly into my phone’s front sensors ( e.g., asking Siri to text someone while driving). In fact, at the iPhone X launch, when Face ID was introduced, Apple’s VP Craig Federighi, couldn’t unlock the demo phone with his face, likely because of the stage light.

Craig Federighi at the iPhone X product launch event in 2017. (Image credit: Getty)

I’ve made peace with the fact that Apple is not planning to phase out Face ID any time soon — so I thought. In the last few months, I’ve tinkered with the Google Pixel 6, iPhone SE and the iPad Air 5, all of which — you guessed it — are equipped with the good ol’ fingerprint sensor. And you know what? I miss using my digits to unlock my iPhone more than I initially thought. 

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