iPhone X Face ID Slower Than Touch ID (But There's a Fix)

The iPhone X introduces a big change to the way you unlock your device in Face ID. Leveraging advanced facial recognition and the new TrueDepth front camera, Apple's flagship has no problem logging you in, whether you're wearing sunglasses or a hat. It also works well in the dark.

Credit: Mark Spoonauer/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Mark Spoonauer/Tom's Guide)

There's just one problem: Face ID is slower than what it replaces.

I've been using Face ID on the iPhone X for more than 24 hours, and I don't need a stopwatch to tell you that it unlocks my phone slower than when I was using Touch ID on my older iPhone 7 Plus. I used a stopwatch app anyway to prove my point.

MORE: iPhone X Review: Your Biggest Questions Answered

With Face ID on the iPhone X, it took 1.2 seconds from pressing the side button to the iPhone X's screen turning on and for the phone to recognize me and unlock the device. And it was another 0.4 seconds to swipe up to get to the lock screen. Total time: 1.8 seconds. (You can simply tap the screen to wake it, but this took about the same amount of time).

On my iPhone 7 Plus, I could get to the home screen just by pressing and holding my thumb on the Touch ID sensor in an average of 0.91 seconds. That might not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up quickly when you're unlocking your phone dozens of time a day.

There is a workaround of sorts, though. You can swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone X's screen even while the iPhone X is looking for your face. Sometimes you might briefly see the word "Face ID" flash as the iPhone X transitions to the home screen, but you will still get to start using your phone faster.

It took me an average of 1.5 seconds using this method. That's still slower than Touch ID, but you will shave off a little bit of time.

Update 11/1: As John Gruber notes on Daring Fireball, you can save time by making sure Raise to Wake is enabled in settings and simply swiping up on the screen as you bring the phone to you. But this is still slower than using Touch ID. I timed it at 1.48 seconds if you include waiting for screen to turn on. It takes 1.16 seconds if you start timing from when the screen turns on.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • jarheaddoug
    You're doing it wrong... no reason to press the side button...
  • Mark Spoonauer
    Hi and thanks for the comment. It's still slower than Touch ID when you tap the screen or use raise to wake.
    I've updated the story. But certainly tapping the screen or use raising to wake is more convenient.
    20331673 said:
    You're doing it wrong... no reason to press the side button...

  • cranson.alex
    Funny, because I can unlock my old-as-f^*# Samsung smart phone by swiping the security pattern in less than half a second. But, apparently unlike most Apple customers, I don't have secure military documents or classified materials on my phone so I can readily get away with the low-level security offered by a swipe pattern.
  • taylorh_9
    I have raise to wake turned off because it's always coming on in my pocket. I honestly don't know how people use it without false wakes all of the time.
    I imagine I'd pick it up while hitting the side button as I do the iPhone 7. Then by the time I swipe the screen the FaceID would have already authenticated me because it had already been awake before I looked at it. I guess we'll see.
  • marek.machy
    Why press the side button???
  • tybelisle
    Sorry but watching you fail to understand how to turn your head in circle is like watching someone fail to understand how to turn a doorknob lol.
  • qramohn
    Can you calculate how much time you save per day by not needing to unlock the iPhone with Touch Id everytime you want to interact with lock screen notifications?
  • doncl
    Is this honestly a real issue? It seems like a first world problem to me. You're measuring the time it takes to get your phone active with sub-second precision? Time is precious, but not that precious. Relax and slow down a little.