Apple gives its iPhone a ‘facial’ (not of the salon kind); will Samsung be far behind? Jest apart, what Apple has does to iPhone X goes far beyond a facial. It’s a technology makeover, introducing some fancy biometrics. IPhone X’s facial recognition technology is avowedly among the best. But Samsung has sought to upend Apple with smartphones that it claims go much further in providing biometric security. Of course facial recognition has been available since 2012 with Android version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich and debuted by Samsung Nexus.

IPhone X: Is your face your password?

As we know Apple launched its iPhone X with much fanfare claiming that it has a face-recognition technology that is near-fool proof. Samsung claims its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ use a combination of biometric features to make the security more efficient.

Yes, there is much merit in Apple’s claim that it’s making your face your password. Apple’s facial recognition technology scans the whole face and determines you are really you when you try to use the phone. Isn’t it wonderful?

How does Apple do it? It has rigged up some special hardware in the device and, of course, matching software. The technology it uses is called the depth image acquisition using modulated pattern projection. If one cuts out the jargon, it simply means detailed face mapping using infrared light and comparing it with data stored in the device.

When we hear about facial recognition, the first doubt would be what would happen if the device owner suddenly decides to sport a beard or has an allergic reaction and his or her face is all puffed up? Will the device lock him or her out out thinking that person is not really the owner? Facial recognition technology has long back passed that stage of cognitive inadequacy.  This is because Apple’s Face ID (that’s the name Apple has given to iPhone’s facial recognition technology) woks not by merely comparing data gathered from appearance alone.  It gets pretty much more sophisticated than that. It works by comparing the geometry of major facial features in 3D. The device uses a strong infrared beam to scan your face and create a map connecting a matrix of light points. As you know the infrared light is not visible of human eye and therefore the scanning beam will not be visible and will not cause any discomfort to the user or other nearby people. More importantly, the device will work even in darkness because of the infrared rays. Along with the infrared beam, an infrared matrix is cast on the user’s face which minutely maps the facial features including its motions and compares with the stored image. The 3D projection allows collection of data that shows shape, detects edges, and depth while an object is in motion under any type of lighting conditions. That’s why Apple calls the process ‘depth image acquisition using modulated pattern projection’. And Apple has a separate subsystem to process only the facial recognition data called A11 Bionic Neural Engine. Whatever the nitty-gritty, we are only interested in all the new-fangled technologies work every time it’s needed. Especially when the device comes with a heavy price-tag.

Now what if you face suddenly becomes so unrecognizable that your phone is not letting you in? There is a personal identification number (PIN) unlock system for use in case of such eventualities, no worries.

Samsung: Open with a look?

Samsung claims its Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones are the “securest phones yet”.

The user can choose a combination of security features or all. Samsung has a facial recognition feature which, however, is not as sophisticated as iPhone’s and it has been shown that a high resolution photograph can unlock the phone.

Iris scan is the other feature. Patterns in the iris are unique for each individual making it extremely reliable as a security feature. That’s why Samsung claims its phone opens with a look from the owner. There is a fingerprint scanner for the phone which sits on a corner and unlocks the phone with a touch. Samsung has also provided the facility for opening the phone with a PIN. The fact that the data for comparison resides in the device itself and does not travel on the network reduces the chance of data reaching wrong hands.

So Apple or Samsung?

Technology wise iPhone X easily steals a march over Galaxy S. In the case of facial recognition Apple’s ‘depth image acquisition using modulated pattern projection’ is a clear winner, ensuring facial recognition in low light and with different intensities of background lighting. Samsung uses Android’s facial recognition which has been shown to be fooled using high definition images. The same is true for iris scan also.

But if you are not particularly worried about all that fancy high-security frills, the real choice will be based on the price. Obviously, iPone X is indeed far more expensive than Samsung and that could be ultimately be the clincher.