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How to get Face ID on the iPhone X to try again when it misses your face

How to get Face ID on the iPhone X to try again when it misses your face


Do a little finger waggle

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

I’ve been using the iPhone X for about a week, and, like Nilay Patel said in his review: “The good news is that Face ID generally works great. The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t.”

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do in those cases when it doesn’t. And, thanks to a complaint on Twitter (which, as I always say, is what Twitter is for), I have an answer.

But first, my overall take is that when Face ID works, it is magically better than Touch ID. Your phone just feels like it’s unlocked all the time, without requiring you to think about its security at all. However, the problem is that when it doesn’t work, it’s not super clear what you’re supposed to do about it.

When Touch ID fails, you just try it a second time. You reposition your thumb or you wipe your thumb or you say “screw it” and punch in the passcode. When Face ID fails, you reposition the entire phone or you just swipe up on the home bar thing. Usually, that gets it to catch.

But my particularly weird problem is that I really, really like the feature that hides notifications on the lock screen until Face ID recognizes you. But when it’s sitting on your desk (or better yet, your angled wireless charger), sometimes it won’t. At that point, I want to see my notifications, but Face ID isn’t catching. So, what next?

  • Looking away and back again doesn’t seem to work.
  • If I swipe up, I have to swipe down again to see my notifications. Annoying.
  • I don’t want to tap on the notification without seeing what it actually is. Annoying.
  • I don’t want to pick up the phone to reposition it; the darn thing is just sitting on my desk. Also annoying.
  • I don’t want to power the screen down with the sleep button and then power it up again. Again, also annoying!

I just want to see what my notifications are without picking up my phone or doing something awkward. What do I do? The iPhone doesn’t tell me.

Luckily, Alex Anderson on Twitter has told me. Give the home bar a little wiggle. Drag it up like about a quarter-inch and then push it down again. Don’t drag it up far enough to unlock the phone, just do a tiny wiggle. Face ID will then give it another shot and — by this point — you’re probably giving it the proper attention to make it work this time.

Is this a silly problem? Yes. But it’s also a thing I do hundreds of times a day, so I want it to work. Phones should be accommodating to their users, adjusting to them instead of vice versa. Sometimes it feels like the iPhone X doesn’t do that.

Apple has made the best-case scenario of unlocking your phone way better with Face ID, but good software design should guide the user toward what to do when things don’t go exactly as planned. I wish the iPhone X was as good at helping me figure out how to use it in those cases as my pal Alex on Twitter was.