How to set up and use Face ID on your iPhone

How to set up and use Face ID on your iPhone

iPhone 12 Face ID setup

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Face ID is Apple’s biometric facial scanning security technology, found on all modern iPhones except the iPhone SE. Here’s what you need to know about setting it up and using it, including using it with a mask or glasses.


If you didn’t enable Face ID when you turned on your iPhone for the first time, go to Settings > Face ID and Passcode > Configure Face ID. Do not wear a mask or glasses during the first scan (you can adjust for these later). When Face ID is active, you’ll be prompted to trigger it for things like Apple Pay or third-party apps, but it’s often automatic when you swipe up to unlock.


How to set up Face ID on an iPhone

Setting up Face ID on an iPhone

You should be prompted to set up Face ID the first time you use a new iPhone. But if you skipped that process, here’s what to do:

  • Open the Settings app and tap Face ID and password. Enter your existing password or create a new one, as this is required as a backup.
  • Remove any mask or glasses you are wearing. You’ll be able to use them later, but for initial setup it’s best to establish a baseline.
  • Press Set up Face ID.
  • Hold the iPhone vertically for approx. 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) away from your face.
  • Place your head within the border on the screen.
  • Rotate your head in a circle. This gives Face ID more angles for a more complete map. If you can’t move your head enough, push Accessibility options. Otherwise, press Continue after the scan is complete.
  • Complete another scan when prompted.
  • Press Finished.
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How to use Face ID on an iPhone

iPhone 12 face id load pass

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

When enabled, Face ID is enabled by default for built-in features such as unlocking, Apple Pay, App Store purchases, and password autofill. Sometimes you’ll be prompted to use it, but in the case of unlocking, it will (usually) trigger automatically when you swipe up. You will occasionally need to re-enter your password to keep it that way – if you restart your phone, for example.

Either way, your phone’s TrueDepth camera (part of the screen notch) needs a good glimpse to recognize you. It can work in little or no ambient light, as it projects an invisible grid, but you should still be within arm’s length.

Face ID is also available in many third-party apps, such as Instacart, Scotiabank, LastPass, and Bank of America. For privacy reasons, developers must ask for your permission to enable the feature. On your end, you probably need to flip a switch in the app.

Face ID settings

You can switch first- and third-party permissions through the Settings app Face ID and password Menu. There are some additional control options worth knowing:

  • Set up an alternate appearance: If you sometimes change your appearance so drastically that Face ID has problems, this allows you to perform a new setup without undoing the first one.
  • Face ID with mask: We will cover this in detail in the next section.
  • Reset Face ID: If the recognition does not work at all, you may want to start from scratch.
  • Demand attention for Face ID: This checks that your eyes are actually looking at your iPhone before you complete authentication. We recommend keeping this on for safety reasons, but the option may not work with some sunglasses.
  • Attention-aware features: If you turn this on, your iPhone checks before dimming the screen, expanding a notification on the lock screen, or reducing the volume of certain notifications.
  • Unlock with Apple Watch: If you have a watch and it’s both on your wrist and unlocked, it can be used to authenticate when an object (like a mask) interferes with Face ID. Your watch will click and/or vibrate when this happens.
  • Add glasses: We’ll talk more about this in a second.
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How to use Face ID with a mask or glasses

Using Face ID with a mask on iPhone

If your iPhone is running iOS 15.4 or later, you can still unlock it while wearing a mask. The feature was added during the COVID-19 pandemic to cut down on repeated requests for passwords.

Assuming you’ve already completed the Face ID setup without a mask, do the following:

  • Open the Settings app and tap Face ID and password.
  • Scroll down and select Face ID with mask.
  • Follow the instructions to perform a new face scan.

You can set up an Apple Watch as a bypass through Face ID and Passcode > Unlock with Apple Watch. As mentioned, the trick is that the watch must be on the wrist and unlocked.

If you have glasses, wear them Face ID and password > Add glasses. You can try wearing the glasses during initial setup, but this risks recognition problems when you take them off.

Don’t combine a mask and sunglasses unless you’re prepared to use an Apple Watch or a passcode. When wearing a mask, Face ID relies on the area around your eyes, and sunglasses give it nothing to work with.

Read more: The best Apple Watch alternatives you can buy

Common questions

No. Since Face ID relies on depth mapping, a 2D image will automatically fail authentication.

Yes. Related data is stored in an iPhone’s Secure Enclave chip and does not reach cloud servers. Hacking into that chip will require physical access and advanced tools, as Face ID will be the least of your worries.

Apple has also refined the hardware and software to protect against counterfeiting with images and realistic full masks. There were a few anecdotes of masks working early in Face ID’s history, but only in experimental testing, and the problem appears to have been long resolved.

However, remember that when a Face ID check fails, your iPhone asks for a passcode (for unlocking) or a passcode (for apps). So your phone can only be as secure as these two factors.

In a way. You can use Settings > Face ID and Passcode > Set up an alternate look for another person if you don’t need the alternative login yourself. Make sure you fully trust the other person, as they will not only have access to your data, but the ability to buy things or transfer money if you have Face ID-linked payment methods.

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