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Is the New iPhone’s Facial Recognition Really All That Innovative?

Sep 22, 2017

Is the New iPhone’s Facial Recognition Really All That Innovative?


Apple fumbled during its much-hyped announcement for the pricey iPhone X the other day when one of its most publicized features apparently blundered during a demonstration. “Opening [the iPhone X] is as easy as looking at it and swiping up,” Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller boasted until his iPhone failed to unlock so many times, it forced him to use his PIN instead. Though the world still remained awestruck over a handheld piece of technology smart enough to visually identify a person, the real story here is about how much grander in scale this software will be than simply being used to unlock your phone.

First, let’s give props where props are due—though Apple’s shot at facial recognition is may be the best attempt for a handheld device to date, Android has had it since 2012, and it has actually been around since the 1960s. Though Apple tries to lead from the front of the pack and lets others follow suit when it comes to innovation, you can still blame them if your Android also doesn’t have a headphone jack. But in the case of facial recognition, though, this will create an arms race because Android saw how strongly Apple’s know-your-face game was perceived. Soon enough, facial recognition software will be advanced enough to give us all sorts of goodies.

For starters, we could use our face to pay at the store. Apple has already approved its Face ID to work with Apple Pay and other third-party apps, like your bank’s. Instead of paying for your coffee with your card, you’ll be able to swipe your phone, show it your face, and go about your day. Plastic credit cards are already growing obsolete, so it may soon be time to add the wallet to the list of industries millennials are responsible for killing.

Thankfully for wallet companies, we’ll still need to carry around our ID cards. Or will we? You already don’t in China, and you won’t need your phone, either. Businesses are being field tested with software that only requires your face to pay, so you can pig out and order as much food as you want without worrying about juggling your wallet or phone back in your pocket. The goal of improving facial recognition tech isn’t to add value to your cell phone—it’s to replace it entirely.

But hold off on throwing away your cell phone, credentials, and wallet just yet. Nobody knows yet if this kind of tech is going to take off in Western countries like it did in China. Paired with potentially being recognized by cameras if caught doing something illegal, convincing people to tie a 3D image of their face to their bank account will be a hard bargain to sell.

So while the future of facial recognition technology is off shining brightly, many are left at square one, contemplating taking out another loan for the most expensive smartphone ever. But hey, if Apple makes you justify splurging on the iPhone X just so a newer model can replace it in less than a year, at least you can take solace over potentially adding the smartphone as a whole to the list of industries we’ve killed, right?