Apple’s new iMac is one of the most exciting products this year. While some have bemoaned its “chin” the general look of these machines has certainly struck the perfect note with the intended audiences. These machines look fun and will appeal to families who need a computer but want something with a bit of style.
But there’s one omission that Apple has made, and that’s the lack of Face ID support on the new iMac. You can use the brand new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, which is great, but wouldn’t it also be fantastic to have the ability to use your face to unlock your Mac? And let’s be honest, the hardware on the new iMac is so close to the iPad now it feels like Face ID could be something universal across all Apple products.
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This isn't even an out-of-the-blue suggestion, there was code within MacOS Big Sur that suggested Apple's Macs would get some form of Face ID. While it's not been included on the new iMac, it's clear Apple has considered this option — as it considers many different ideas.
There is one clear problem, the camera included on the iMac isn’t actually a TrueDepth equipped. On the iPhone and iPad Pro there are several modules involved in using Face ID. The camera is the first, then there’s a dot projector which Apple’s hardware uses to create a map of your face. There’s also a flood illuminator for low-light conditions, ensuring you can unlock your phone in the dark. Clearly, these add both cost and complexity to the camera module.
So given the hardware cost of adding Face ID to Mac, what’s the advantage. Mainly it’s security, Face ID is more secure than Touch ID, according to Apple’s own research (opens in new tab). The chance of someone randomly being able to unlock your device with their fingerprint is 1 in 50,000. Adding more authorised fingerprints also reduces it to one in 10,000 for five stored prints. The chance of a random face being able to unlock your device is one in a million for Face ID. That might not matter much for home users, but Face ID is potentially great for corporate security.
It’s most likely that Apple just didn’t want to add extra hardware to the design of the iMac. After all, these are clearly designed to look as minimal as possible, with even the Apple logo absent from the front of the device. Adding more cameras would make the top bezel a bit more crowded and less beautiful.
So while it’s quite obvious why Apple hasn’t used Face ID here, it does seem somewhat like a missed opportunity. For one thing, anyone opting to use a different keyboard, perhaps for accessibility reasons, or just personal preference, will not be able to use the Touch ID either.
It seems likely that we’ll see a high-powered pro version of the iMac at some point in the future. Some rumours have suggested that an M1X processor could have 12 cores and be an absolute powerhouse for desktop computing. Perhaps Face ID will be on that machine, if it really does arrive.