Face Unlock was added to Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus in 2011. Android gave up on Face ID way too quickly. Face Unlock was added to Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus in 2011. Face recognition didn’t come to smartphones until a major Android update, so it’s hard to say which device was the first to have it. It came with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 for Android. At that time, it was the.
Face recognition has been on smartphones for more than a decade, but Android phone makers neglected it until Apple’s iPhone X. Apple is the only early adopter of secure 3D facial recognition. How come? And will phones made by companies other than Apple ever be able to recognise faces in 3D?
What led to that? And can we expect 3D face recognition to come back to phones that aren’t made by Apple?
Face recognition didn’t come to smartphones until a major Android update, so it’s hard to say which device was the first to have it. It came with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 for Android. Back then, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was the first device to use this new version of Android. Technically, this is the “first” device, but soon after it, dozens or even hundreds of other devices were updated to Android 4.0 and got the same features. Google called the feature “Face Unlock” back then.
When we first tried Face Unlock, we didn’t believe it would work. Face Unlock “isn’t very secure,” we thought at first.
We confirmed that it’s easy to trick with a picture, and there’s one additional difficulty with the feature: it will still work if you have a beard or moustache, but it will be more finicky, especially if you haven’t trimmed it in a while.
All of this happened in 2011, over a decade ago.
Google improved the security of Face Unlock the following year with the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update. This update added an extra layer of security called “Liveness Check,” which basically asked users to blink for the phone to unlock. With “Liveness Check” turned on, using a picture to cheat Face Unlock was much harder, if not impossible.
That was a good step forward, but Face Unlock seemed to be forgotten in the years that followed. Yes, it was still part of Android, but its security issues prohibited many people from using it. In those days, fingerprint scanners were fast, dependable, safe enough for payments, and could work in the dark. Face Unlock was sort of brushed aside. The iPhone X changed that.
Why Android phone makers abandoned the feature when it worked so well on the Pixel 4 and Huawei Mate 20 is surprising. The Mate 20 showed that fast fingerprint and safe facial recognition can coexist without compromising much.
Google reportedly cited battery life concerns for not putting a face unlock system on the Pixel 6, although if they surveyed people dissatisfied with the slow fingerprint scanner, most of them would not mind having that option.
At best, Android phone makers can offer image-based facial recognition. No major Android phone vendor has a flagship with 3D face recognition, and no significant release is expected.
Is the slightly larger notch required for Face ID a problem for Android phone makers? I wish Android phone makers would recall how popular 3D Face Unlock, a fingerprint scanner, and long battery life were a few years ago.
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