Apple: Face ID (demo) fail — updated with Apple’s explanation

Craig Federighi, Apple’s best showman since Steve Jobs, took the demo screw-up in stride. But the stock fell and the internet went nuts.

A sampling of the coverage:

  • Business Insider: Watch Apple’s Face ID unlocking fail during its big demo
  • The Telegraph: Apple suffers embarrassing demo Face ID fail at iPhone X launch
  • Mashable: Apple tried to show off Face ID, and it was so embarrassing
  • MacRumors: Doubts and Speculation Surround Apple’s Onstage Face ID ‘Fail’ During iPhone X Keynote
  • The Verge: Apple’s first Face ID demo failed, but it wasn’t Face ID’s fault
  • Vice: Apple’s stock suddenly dropped after that Face ID fail

Below: By Thursday morning, Unbox Therapy’s over-the-top blow-by-blow had drawn 2.8 million views:

My take: I thought Apple would be crazy to kill Touch ID. But I’m pretty sure they’ll get this right by the time I get my iPhone X.

UPDATE: Yahoo‘s David Pogue got through to Apple:

Tonight, I was able to contact Apple. After examining the logs of the demo iPhone X, they now know exactly what went down. Turns out my first theory in this story was wrong—but my first UPDATE theory above was correct: “People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time,” says a rep, “and didn’t realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.” In other words, “Face ID worked as it was designed to.”

In other words, according to Apple, it was a Face ID demo fail, not a Face ID fail— the prevailing theory in the comment stream. Headline changed accordingly.

19 Comments

  1. Dale Raaen said:

    I understood the problem immediately, as should have all members of the press. Passcode required after restart. Happens all the time with Touch ID.

    3
    September 13, 2017
  2. John Blackburn said:

    Anyone asserting that Apple would release Face ID half-baked while removing the stable Touch ID bears the burden of proof here, certainly more than inanely pointing at an adroit recovery to a presentation glitch that looked, as Dale pointed out, like nothing more than a passcode-required-after-restart.

    And I wish I could reclaim the little time I wasted on that annoying video.

    1
    September 13, 2017
  3. Fred Stein said:

    Craig’s overall performance tells me that Apple has a potential successor, which means a lot when you’re the largest public company.

    2
    September 13, 2017
  4. Richard Wanderman said:

    Face ID did not fail. If you log out of your iPhone with Touch ID or Face ID you need to put in your password the first time you log back in.

    What failed was whoever set that iPhone up for Craig (or Craig himself). They needed to log him in with a passcode after a restart. Then they could demo Face ID without hiccup.

    As I said in my other comment this was a great presentation moment for Craig. He handled it perfectly and didn’t miss a beat. There was NO FACE ID FAIL and we should not be perpetuating that meme. There was a presentation prep fail but in fact, to me it turned into a feature.

    3
    September 13, 2017
    • Maybe.

      If Apple already knows what happened—and I bet they do—sharing that information might drive a stake through the meme.

      1
      September 13, 2017
      • Ken Cheng said:

        David Pogue has a screenshot of the moment when Federighi was locked out, showing the screen of the phone. It seems like whomever prepped the phone messed up.

        1
        September 14, 2017
      • Richard Wanderman said:

        Definitely. Apple has now confirmed this. It wasn’t a Face ID fail, it was a setup fail exactly as I suspected.

        0
        September 14, 2017
  5. Gianfranco Pedron said:

    Such pettifogging says more about the various publications and pundits than it says about Apple. Lets just say NO to puerile pundit pettifoggery!

    I don’t care what anybody says, I still think Craig had the best looking hair of the lot. Sorry, Angela. 🙂

    0
    September 13, 2017
  6. David Emery said:

    It’s “only” software! 😉

    But to the point of ‘password when you reboot,’ it’s really hard to believe Craig rebooted just before walking on the stage. If so, he really blew that, and the ghost of Steve Jobs is saying very bad things at him.

    We DO NOT KNOW if this was a fail or not!

    0
    September 13, 2017
    • Gianfranco Pedron said:

      To his credit, Craig did have a backup.

      2
      September 13, 2017
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      I think Face ID will go for a password if a NEW face gets in front of it and doesn’t unlock it. Much like multiple failed attempts with Touch ID. So, even if the phone wasn’t rebooted, someone standing in front of it dusting and waking it up might have triggered the same set of actions.

      0
      September 14, 2017
  7. William Kortum said:

    Decades ago, I was doing a lot of audio work & I ran into someone who told me he was freelancing doing audio/visual presentations for Fortune 500 companies for insane fees. I questioned the fees. Audio/visual work – after all – is not exactly rocket science. “Why would anyone pay you those fees when all of these companies have audio/visual staffs?” He told me he was paid the big bucks so that he’d be easy to fire in the event of a screw up.

    Perhaps I’m not doing everything right, but I find Touch ID on my SE phone works flawlessly about a third of the time. The other two thirds of the time I need to enter my passcode. Maybe this is the new normal or maybe I’m doing something wrong?

    0
    September 13, 2017
    • Richard Wanderman said:

      Have you trained the same finger multiple times? Have you tried other fingers? I had problems with it on my 5s but things have improved mightily on the 6s and now it works for me 80% of the time or better. I’m old with well “used” thumbs so I never expected it to learn my prints but in fact, it has.

      1
      September 14, 2017

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