See Which Phones Can Be Unlocked by Photos

Many people know that Apple's Face ID system is more secure than the default Android facial recognition program. For example, Face ID can't be fooled by a photograph.

Credit: Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock

(Image credit: Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock)

Yet a Dutch consumer association finds that many Android phones, such as OnePlus models and Samsung and Motorola's newer phones, have pretty secure facial recognition as well.

The sad part is that dozens of other Android handsets, including models made by Samsung, Motorola, Sony and Huawei, still fall for the photo trick. A few more Android phones have adjustable face-unlock settings that can be turned up to prevent being fooled by a photo.

The Dutch Consumertenbond, or Consumer Association, tested 110 models from about 20 different manufacturers and released its facial-recognition report yesterday (Jan. 3). Most of the models tested are available in the Netherlands, but several were American, Brazilian or British versions.

As you'd expect, all of the Apple phones tested -- nine different configurations, based on storage size, of the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max -- did not unlock their screens when presented with a high-resolution photo of an enrolled user. The same was true of the OnePlus 5T and four different versions of the OnePlus 6, as well as their cousin the Oppo Find X. (That doesn't quite explain how another Dutchman was able to fool a OnePlus 6, though.)

MORE: Best Smartphones 2019

On the flip side, 42 of the 101 Android phones tested did indeed unlock their screens for a photo. These included several mid-range phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy A7, A8 and J8 and the Motorola Moto E5 and G6 Play, but also pricier phones including the Sony Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Premium and XZ3 and the Huawei P20.

However, the more expensive models from Samsung, Huawei and Motorola passed the photo test. You should feel safe using the face-unlock features on the Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, Note 9 and even the cheaper Galaxy A6. Likewise, the Motorola Moto G6, G6 Plus, Z3 and Z3 Play were cleared for use, as were the Honor 7C, 8X, 10 and View 10, as well as the Huawei Y6, Y7, Mate 20, Mate 20 Lite and Mate 20 Pro.

Six phones tested yielded different results when their facial-recognition settings were adjusted. At the default settings, the Honor 7A and LG G7 thinQ, V35 thinQ and V40 thinQ were fooled by photos. But when the facial recognition was set to be "stricter," the phones all passed the photo test.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.