As technology continues to get better and better, unlocking your mobile phone with a thumbprint or password is soon to be a thing of the past. Facial recognition software is an up-and-coming technology that is being integrated with many modern smartphones, as it offers an extremely secure and simple way for users to unlock their phones, or do other tasks, such as make digital payments.

Face recognition is pretty much what it says on the tin. It is a type of biometric software that can identify and verify a mobile phone user by scanning their face and analysing unique features. In this article, we will look at how face recognition on mobile phones works, which mobile phones have this feature, and the benefits of getting a phone with face recognition.

What Is Face Recognition?

Face recognition has been around for quite some time, and is used by organisations like the police, to scan CCTV footage and find human faces in videos or images. This technology has since been adapted for use on mobile phone devices, and so far, is working very well. Facial recognition software learns your face and unique features and stores this information within its system.

When you want to unlock and use your phone, face recognition will identify and confirm whether the person trying to unlock your phone is you, or someone else. As it is impossible to copy someone’s face, you aren’t likely to unlock a phone that isn’t yours.

Mobile devices are not the only technology to use facial recognition. It has a wide range of uses, from unlocking a laptop to allowing access for construction workers into a work site.

How Does Face Recognition Work?

Face recognition works by scanning or taking photographs of your face at different angles. This uses a biometric system, which is an automated recognition system that uses unique physical characteristics to recognise a person for security purposes. Biometric systems are commonly being used today in places such as airports, with many new passports coming equipped with biometric technology.

The biometric system creates a map of your facial features. When you try to unlock your phone with your face, it will compare back to this information to find a match. This means face recognition is likely to still recognise you if you change your hair, but it may struggle if you are wearing sunglasses, as they cover a large section of your face.

Many modern smartphones now have face recognition, but some are better than others. For instance, Apple’s FaceID software is the most secure. This is because it uses a depth sensor, infrared camera, and a dot projector to map 30,000 different points on your face to unlock your phone. The software can then create a 3D scan that is extremely secure. In fact, the chances of someone being able to unlock your iPhone are less than 1 in 1,000,000.

Other facial recognition software is not as sophisticated, using a 2D map rather than 3D. This means it only takes a scan of the front of your face. The software may also use an iris scanner, which will use the unique patterns in your eye to unlock your phone. Whilst this sounds good in practice, the angle of your phone must be right, and it may not work in a dark room. With a 2D scan, there is also the potential of a hacker unlocking your phone with only a picture of your face.

You also don’t need to worry about your biometric data being stored on your mobile. Facial recognition operating systems employ strict security measures to ensure your data is stored securely. The data will be encrypted and then isolated, meaning hackers and third-party apps will not be able to access this data unless you give them specific permission to.

What Was the First Phone With Face Recognition?

The first company to trial and test a phone with face recognition was OMRON Corporation. Back in 2005, they announced their ‘OKAO Vision Face Recognition Sensor’, which was a first in the mobile industry, but it didn’t really gain much traction at the time.

As face recognition technology rapidly advanced from then onwards, the first game-changing phone to use facial recognition was the iPhone X, which was released back in September 2017. This was the first modern smartphone that allowed iPhone users to unlock their mobiles with a function that Apple termed ‘FaceID’.

What Phones Have Face Recognition Today?

There are plenty of phones with face recognition nowadays, meaning you have a wide range to choose from, depending on whether you are an Android or iOS user. The newest Apple iPhone 14 has the face unlock feature and this is unlikely to change as they bring out new iPhones.

In terms of Android users, some of the best phones with facial recognition technology include:

If you are not sure whether the phone you want has face recognition, you can check the features of the phone online or in-store before making the purchase.

What iPhones Have Face Recognition?

Most iPhones following on from the iPhone X have face recognition, although a few do not, such as the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE doesn’t have face recognition as it is a cheaper handset that is offered as a more affordable option for those who want an iPhone without the high price tag.

The iPhone SE has the software to run FaceID, but the camera is not of a high enough quality to create a depth map. For this reason, Apple decided to keep its fingerprint scanner for the iPhone SE.

As of 2023, the iPhones that have face recognition include:

  • iPhone X & XR
  • iPhone XS & XS Max
  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro & 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max & 12 Mini
  • iPhone 13, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max & 13 Mini
  • iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro & 14 Pro Max

The Benefits of Face Recognition on Mobile Phones

There are a lot of benefits to using face recognition over fingerprint scanners or passcodes. However, this depends on the quality of the facial recognition technology included on your mobile. As stated earlier, some of the best face recognition software is available on iPhone, but newer Android models are increasing the complexity of their facial recognition software for better security.

The benefits of face recognition on mobile phones include:

  • A fast and simple way to unlock your phone, with no buttons required. Inputting a passcode can take longer than simply holding your phone to your face, and fingerprint scanners sometimes take a while to work, especially if your phone or hands are dirty or greasy.
  • Enhanced safety and security – a good facial recognition software will analyse multiple parts of your face on a 3D level, such as the width of your nose, the size, and shape of your eyes, or the placement of your lips, and combine these features to create a unique passcode that only you can unlock. Unless you have an identical twin, it would be practically impossible to unlock your phone.
  • It works with the built-in camera integrated into your mobile, meaning it’s a technology that can continue to be used with no barriers.
  • You can use it to lock other things on your phone, such as apps, photos, and notes – even if you let your child play on your phone, they won’t be able to access important things or accidentally pay for in-game purchases, so you can let them play or watch YouTube without worry.
  • You can pay for things – with iPhones, you can use FaceID with your Apple wallet, which allows you to pay with your card quickly and without having to use your pin.
  • Your phone can recognise you and your friend’s faces in photos, making it easier to find certain photos on your phone or to tag your friends in a Facebook post.
  • An easy way to access banking apps – face recognition is now used alongside many banking apps, including Lloyds and Starling, to provide quick and safe access to your online banking accounts.

As you can see, the benefits of face recognition make a compelling argument, which is why so many mobile providers are now offering facial recognition as a standard for their users. As technology continues to advance, face recognition will likely offer more and more benefits for phone users.

Should I Use Face Recognition?

Face recognition is a popular software used to unlock your phone and carry out other important tasks, such as accessing mobile banking apps or making a transaction. It works by scanning your face and creating biometric data, which includes a map of your face and your unique characteristics.

Face recognition is a relatively safe technology and is likely to continue to develop to become even more secure. If your mobile offers face recognition, it is a handy software that offers many benefits for its users. You can find out more information about the technology behind the facial recognition software on your phone by looking on the manufacturer’s website.