iPhone 5 Could Get Facial Recognition Technology

April 5, 2012

Back when the iPhone 4 first came out in 2010, one of the most buzzed about features on the device was the front camera. The front facing camera’s main purpose was to allow users to video chat with one another through FaceTime. Now it’s possible that the front facing camera may take on a new responsibility in the iPhone 5: facial recognition. With the recent talk of HTC’s patent for facial recognition on their Android devices, it’s now even more possible that Apple may go down the same route of introducing facial recognition in the iPhone 5. In today’s article, we’ll cover what facial recognition is, how it works, the potential problems with it, and why it may show up in the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 Facial Recognition: What It Is and How It Works

First things first: just what is facial recognition technology? If you’ve ever owned a laptop that allows you to unlock your computer by merely looking at the webcam, this is a good example of what facial recognition technology is. In the case of the iPhone 5, facial recognition would allow you to unlock your iPhone 5 just by looking into the camera. Rather than having to deal with entering that pesky passcode each time you want to unlock your iPhone 5, you’ll simply smile and the phone will unlock.

The iPhone 5 facial recognition most likely would work through the front facing camera, though it’s possible Apple may also allow use of the rear cam. On the lock screen, you would be given the choice to either enter the passcode manually or to press a button to use facial recognition. It’s also possible that Apple may “automate” this so you wouldn’t have to press a button for facial recognition.

iPhone 5

In the case of the iPhone 5 facial recognition not working as it should, you would ideally be given the chance to enter the passcode manually instead. And if Apple plays it like HTC, the iPhone 5 would automatically add your face to the list of faces recognized so that your face will be recognized the next time….although Apple may not be able to do this with the iPhone 5 if HTC’s patent forbids them from using this technology.

Problems With iPhone 5 Facial Recognition

Of course, facial recognition, like many other “young” technologies is not without its problems. As laptop owners who have laptops with face recognition built-in will tell you, it’s not always accurate. If, for instance, the lighting is poor in your environment, the facial recognition technology won’t be able to pick up your face. Or if your environment is too bright, this can also cause problems with facial recognition.

Perhaps even more concerning is the idea that the iPhone 5 may mistake someone else’s face for your own and unlock the iPhone 5 for unauthorized users. Now, given what we know about Apple and their insistence that certain features are well-tested before they make their way into the iPhone, we don’t think this will be a problem–but it’s worth mentioning because it has plagued other devices with facial recognition for so long.

Why the iPhone 5 Will Get Facial Recognition Technology

In order to keep the momentum that Apple has achieved with the last couple of iPhones, they’ll need to introduce something big with the iPhone 5. Think about it: the iPhone 4 came with FaceTime; the iPhone 4S came with Siri. The iPhone 5 will need to come with an innovative new feature, too, and facial recognition technology just might be it. It makes good sense for Apple to bring facial recognition to iPhone 5 so as to better compete with other Android phones on the market that come standard with this feature. Facial recognition technology is one area Apple won’t want to be left behind with….which makes it likely that the iPhone 5 will get facial recognition technology.

What Do You Think?

Do you think Apple will give the iPhone 5 facial recognition technology? Is this a feature that you would find useful? Leave us a comment below and make your opinion heard.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

JoeShmoe99 April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

The only problem with having an "automatic" facial recognizer system is that the camera would have to be constantly "on" and scanning so that it knows to unlock as soon as your beautiful smile comes across its path. That would be quite the battery drain, and with 4G LTE already posing problems for power I don't see the auto recognizer as being viable (at least Apple would have to provide the option of making the scan manual).


JoeShmoe99 April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

In general, though, I don't think the recognizer will work all that great on a phone. Laptops are easier because they're generally resting on a solid, flat surface, so when you open the screen the camera is positioned perfectly to take a picture. But our hands aren't as steady, especially when we're walking, so a user may have to slow down for the system to work and also put the phone directly at eye level at a certain distance. Seems annoying. I'd just as rather type in four numbers to unlock. You'll also have a bunch of people crashing their cars because they'll be putting their phones in front of their faces to unlock it.

Keep It Simple Stupid is what I say. The only thing I'd really want from the i5 is faster processing, more storage, 4G LTE of course and maybe wireless charging (depending on how well it works). Don't care about a better camera, NFC or facial recognition.


Michelle Canever April 7, 2012 at 9:41 am

Hi Joe,

You make some excellent points. I honestly hadn't considered the battery problems that facial recognition technology might pose. Hopefully if Apple does bring out an iPhone 5 with face recognition, the device will still be battery efficient.

Thanks for commenting!


A. Alam April 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I think finger print recognition will be better than face recognition. As the phone is switched on a convenient area should kick in to recognize the finger print. It should be easier.


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