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How to fix 'Face ID not working' problems on iPhone

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The introduction of Face ID in the iPhone X marked a departure from Apple’s previous Touch ID technology and ushered in a new era of facial recognition that continues on the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max, and most recently on the iPad Pro (2018). But what can you do if Face ID doesn’t work and your phone or tablet refuses to unlock?

In this article we explain the best fixes to try if your X-series iPhone or iPad Pro no longer recognises your face.

Update iOS

Whenever an app or feature develops an issue it’s usually a good idea to see if there are any updates available for iOS or the app itself.

To check the former, go to Settings > General > Software Update, and see if any updates are available. Should you find one, tap on it and iOS will do the rest.

Check the camera

One common reason for Face ID not being able to identify a user is if the lens and sensor array are obscured. Check that your phone case isn’t straying into the field of view, or if there are any marks on the glass itself.

If you’re using one of the 2018 iPad Pro models in landscape mode, there’s a good chance that your own fingers might be obscuring the cameras. (The device should tell you if this is the problem, with an arrow appearing onscreen pointing to the obscured camera.)

iPhones, of course, only let you use Face ID in portrait mode, so make sure you’re holding it in a vertical orientation.

Face ID not working: Portrait orientation

There’s also the possibility that the child, or less mature mate, who borrowed your phone to play a game may have had jam on their grubby mitts which they then kindly deposited on your pristine device. We mention this definitely not to point the finger at anyone specific, no, not at all.

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Anyway, a quick clean or changing your grip could get the iPhone back to its old self in no time.

Make sure the Face ID settings are correct

If this is the first time you’re using Face ID, or if you’ve recently updated your iPhone, then there’s a chance that the settings are not as they should be.

Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode and then check to see if the feature is enabled and that all the options in the Use Face ID for: section are turned on.

Check your face

While Face ID is rather adept at recognising your features, there are a few ways that it can be thwarted. Apple states that some sunglasses which block infrared rays can also stop the TrueDepth sensor from working.

So, if you’re struggling to have your visage verified by your device, try removing your glasses, any other form of facial decoration, or that Ronald Reagan mask that Patrick Swayze used in Point Break. Seriously, it only worked in the movie.

Try setting up a new ID

If you find no joy with the above tips, there is the option to create an additional profile for Face ID to use.

To do this go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Set Up an Alternate Appearance.

Face ID not working: New ID

Now you’ll need to move your head around slowly, as directed by the iPhone, while it scans your contours. After the first pass, tap Continue, and repeat the process. When everything is finished, tap Done and see if you can now unlock the device with just your rugged/elegant (delete as applicable) charms.

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Starting over

Should none of these methods provide a satisfactory solution, there is the option to clear out everything and start again.

Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Reset Face ID.

This will blow away all the previous stored IDs, leaving you free to tap Set up Face ID and begin the process again. Hopefully, this time around, you’ll be able to use the feature without issue.

Those who find that even this step doesn’t solve the problem should contact Apple Support, as there could be a physical problem with your device.



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