Face ID Ignores User Needs

Aaron Cecchini-Butler
3 min readNov 5, 2018

Apple has been known for a long time as a UX monolith. It is an easy consensus among UX/UI Designers that along with Airbnb and a few others, Apple strives to meet their user’s needs at a much higher level than the average tech company.

This is why I am so disappointed when they conveniently ignore certain aspects of the user’s needs.

Although I am new to design, I am aware of how easy it is to fall into the trap of “designing for the perfect situation.”

  • You make a text field that conveniently fits “Salem, MA,” ignoring the fact that there are cities and towns with far longer names.
  • You throw white text over “background image X,” without accounting for the fact that there are many images that are too light for white text.
  • You design a screen where all the controls are in the top left corner, ignoring the majority of people who are right-handed and don’t have thumbs that are five inches long.
Photo by Rebecca Harris on Unsplash

However, we expect more from Apple.

Face ID has benefits — secure privacy, faster than typing a six-digit passcode (although probably comparable with a four-digit passcode) and it definitely feels like magic the first few times you use it.

However, here are some of the cases Apple conveniently ignored:

You’re lying in bed on your side and can’t angle the phone to scan your face correctly how many of us look at our phones in bed!

You’re not wearing your glasses (my iPhone NEVER works without my glasses on)the decision between putting your glasses on for Face ID or typing your passcode can become torture after the hundredth time.

You’re in a dark space where it’s inappropriate to turn the brightness up to illuminate your face let’s be honest, we all check our phones when we shouldn’t: in class during a projected presentation, at a classical concert, during a movie at the theatre, just because this isn’t the best behavior, doesn’t mean Apple can discount it!

You’re driving this may be the most dangerous one. Many people check their phones while driving, and Apple is quick to take advantage as more and more cars include CarPlay. When I used to receive a text, I’d reach down, put my thumb on the home button, and then glance at the text. Face ID hasn’t stopped me from checking my texts, it’s only made it more dangerous by forcing me to look while entering a six-digit passcode, or hold up my phone and stare at it for a second to unlock it. Again, this may be behavior that Apple wants to discourage — and their driving mode indicates that they do care about this issue, however, I think it is wise to assume people won’t change most habits and to avoid making changes that are more dangerous.

Photo by melissa mjoen on Unsplash

One of the most frustrating aspects of Face ID and Apple’s implementation is how it is built to encourage a new habit. My habit is to look at my phone to unlock it. However, it is extremely frustrating when it doesn’t work.

Face ID is impressive, and does a fairly good job, but for me, fingerprint recognition worked 99% of the time whereas Face ID works about 80% of the time. And when you’re talking about a touch point for the user that is going to occur almost everytime they pick up their phone, I don’t think 80% is good enough.

My hope:

I’m hoping that Apple figures out a way to include both. Maybe a fingerprint ID on the back of the phone (cases companies will adapt, they always do). Maybe touchscreens will be able to read fingerprints soon.

Imagine a phone where you can place your finger anywhere on the screen and it unlocks. Maybe Apple Watch should unlock iPhone (like it unlocks computers).

Or maybe we should skip all of this and start implanting computer chips in our wrists — we all know it’s coming.



Aaron Cecchini-Butler

Senior Systems Designer at Grubhub working on Cookbook (our design system) — as well as contributing to product design work.