Why Face ID may never support multiple users


iPhone X Face ID accurate
Face ID is awesome, but only for one user.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Face ID on iPhone X was designed to be operated by just one user, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Apple’s Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, says there are no plans to add multi-user support.

Face ID is better than Touch ID in almost every way. It’s more versatile and significantly more secure. But Touch ID did have one advantage: You could save multiple fingerprints, which meant you could add multiple users if you wanted to.

Face ID won’t support more than one face

That wasn’t what Apple had in mind, however. Touch ID was only supposed to be used by one person — and that’s exactly how Face ID was designed. Apple has no plans of changing that, according to an email, allegedly from Federighi, posted on Reddit.

“Currently, we’re focusing Face ID on single-user authentication,” Federighi told one iPhone X user.

“Even Touch ID’s multi-finger support was really intended to enable a single iPhone owner to unlock the device with a finger and thumb on both hands, not to enable multi-user authentication.”

Apple may change its mind later, but you shouldn’t get your hopes up. It makes sense for devices like computers and tablets to support multiple users, but smartphones are typically used by just one person. How often do you let someone else use yours?

  • Frank Malloy

    But the story doesn’t answer the question posed by the title – Why?

    As with all things Apple, it’s “because we said so”.

  • undfeatable

    You may think the way to rectify this would be to add the ability to “share” the phone with another completely different user, basically login to another account.

    Think about your phones capabilities now. It can act as your wallet and purchase everything because it knows it’s you. They want to create a device so integrated into your life, it will have everything around your home/office/life operate for you because they can verify it is you via FaceID and be absolutely sure. ATMs, debit cards, your car, safes, and in the future, who knows. Yes i understand it still needs a little more refinement, but give it a few years. Think of it, your phone is a device you carry around nearly everywhere that can guarantee it’s you better than any other form of ID or cards.

    When it scans you for payments or to login to various resources, those resources get either a yes or no as to if that is the person. The processor and everything is all done on different hardware not even the phone can’t access anything other than yes or no response. It’s very important to be certain. Adding a multi-user interface would Likely introduce numerous places in the code that could be vulnerable for hacking.

    Future Scenario: An newly ex-girlfriend knows her ex-s favorite bar. She waits in till he is drunk one day and grabs his phone. She could have hours. First gets in his car, selects home on the Nav, looks at his phone, verifiying the user, off they go. On the way to his place does a little shopping and has amazon driver several thousand dollars worth of stuff in one hour. His bank app alerts his phone, she checks and verifies via faceId He has a lot of smart home products that are becoming increasingly popular today. Door automatically opens when she arrives at his place. She has access to his safe with quite a bit of valuables.

    Sometimes i wish i had the ability sometimes as well, but I understand their reasoning and know that I’m being kept more secure by keeping my phone locked unless it knows I’m there.

    TLDR; There’s a lot of potentials vulnerabilities that would be opened if they allowed multi users.

  • Jim Upchurch

    My TouchID-iPhone knows my wife’s thumbprint (as well as my own) for two reasons: so she could check my phone while I was driving (without my having to tell her my code for the 10,000th time), and so she could get into it if I went toes-up all of a sudden — something worth thinking about after you turn 65. I considered this a perfect solution to both those minor first-world problems, and it’s among the reasons I am hesitating on the FaceID models.

    • Rick C.

      You can still use the keypad to enter the code if you know it…don’t need Face ID. If you want your wife to have access, create a code you both can memorize. Problem solved.

  • Jerryzeroo