Face ID is one of the most convenient ways to unlock your iPhone and authenticate apps. But when it stops working properly, it can be frustrating. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to troubleshoot and fix Face ID not working issues on your iPhone.
What is Face ID and How Does it Work?
Face ID is Apple’s facial recognition system introduced with the iPhone X in 2017. It uses advanced technologies to create a detailed 3D map of your face.
The TrueDepth camera system on the front of your iPhone powers Face ID. It consists of:
- An infrared camera to see your face in the dark
- A flood illuminator to project infrared light
- A dot projector to create a 3D facial map
- A proximity sensor
When you set up Face ID, your iPhone captures images of your face from various angles. It converts these into a mathematical representation and encrypts this facial data.
To unlock your iPhone, the TrueDepth camera captures an infrared image of your face. The dot projector projects over 30,000 invisible dots to map the contours of your face. This data generates a new facial map, which is instantly compared to the stored one. If they match, Face ID unlocks your iPhone.
This all happens in the blink of an eye, making Face ID extremely fast and seamless when working properly.
Common Face ID Issues and Quick Fixes
Face ID is reliable but can fail to recognize your face at times. Here are some quick ways to troubleshoot common issues before diving into more advanced fixes:
Face ID Not Available
- Cause: Older iPhone models don’t support Face ID. This includes the iPhone 8 and earlier.
- Fix: Unfortunately, you can’t use Face ID unless you upgrade to an iPhone X or newer model.
- Cause: Face ID needs a clear view of your entire face to function properly.
- Quick Fixes:
- Remove hats, scarves, masks or anything else covering your face.
- Take off sunglasses with heavy tinting or polarization.
- Make sure long hair isn’t blocking parts of your face.
- Clean camera lenses which may be obstructed.
Face Too Far Away or Not Centered
- Cause: Face ID requires you to hold your iPhone around 10-20 inches away, with your face centered.
- Quick Fix: Move the iPhone closer and hold it directly in front of your face.
Low Light Conditions
- Cause: The infrared camera needs sufficient lighting to capture facial details.
- Quick Fix: Move to a brighter location with more direct light on your face.
If a quick fix doesn’t solve your Face ID problems, try the more advanced troubleshooting steps below.
Advanced Troubleshooting for Face ID Not Working
Follow these steps to thoroughly troubleshoot and fix Face ID not recognizing your face:
1. Restart Your iPhone
Restarting your iPhone refreshes the entire system and often resolves temporary glitches.
- On iPhone 8 or earlier – Hold down the Power button until you see “Slide to Power Off”. Drag the slider to turn off your phone.
- On iPhone X or later – Hold down the Volume Up and Power buttons simultaneously until you see the Apple logo.
Once your phone fully powers down, wait 10-15 seconds then turn it back on. Now try using Face ID again.
2. Reset Face ID
If a restart didn’t help, resetting Face ID erases the stored facial data and allows you to set it up from scratch.
Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode. Enter your passcode then tap Reset Face ID. Re-enter your passcode to confirm.
Now set up Face ID again by tapping Set Up and following the on-screen instructions. Position your face carefully within the frame until the process completes.
Test Face ID a few times from different angles and distances. This trains it to recognize your face in various conditions.
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3. Check for Obstructions
Make absolutely sure the TrueDepth camera has a full, unobstructed view of your face:
- Remove any hats, masks, scarves, or other items covering your face
- Take off sunglasses and tinted glasses if possible
- Tie back long hair so it’s not blocking any facial features
- Remove phone case if it obstructs the TrueDepth camera
- Clean the TrueDepth camera lenses with a soft cloth
With all obstructions gone, position your face in the frame and test Face ID again.
4. Adjust Lighting Conditions
The TrueDepth camera needs adequate lighting to properly map facial details. If you’re indoors or in shadow:
- Move to a brighter location with more direct overhead light on your face
- Avoid having strong backlight behind you, which casts shadows on your face
- Turn on additional lights if the room is too dim
Try using Face ID with improved lighting to see if it helps recognition.
5. Increase Your Distance From the Phone
Counterintuitively, being too close to your iPhone can confuse Face ID. The ideal distance is around 10-20 inches away.
Hold your iPhone further away with your arm extended and see if it improves Face ID recognition.
You may have set up Face ID too close initially. Resetting Face ID (step 2) at the optimal distance can fix this.
6. Center Your Face in the Frame
Look straight at your iPhone and center your face in the frame. Avoid glancing sideways or tilting your head drastically.
The first time you set up Face ID, you need to position yourself consistently. Face ID learns to recognize you from the same angle you enrolled from.
If you’re having issues, reset Face ID (step 2) taking care to center your face properly.
7. Update Your iPhone Software
Apple releases software updates to fix bugs and improve performance. Updating your iPhone ensures you have the latest Face ID fixes and optimizations.
Go to Settings > General > Software Update to update your iPhone. If an update is available, tap Download and Install.
If your software is already up to date, move on to the next troubleshooting step.
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8. Try an Alternate Appearance
Face ID can struggle to recognize you if your appearance changes significantly.
If you’ve dramatically changed your hairstyle, grown a beard, started wearing makeup or glasses, Face ID may no longer recognize you.
You can teach Face ID to recognize your new look by resetting it (step 2). During setup, carefully match your current appearance.
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9. Exclude Similar Faces
Face ID automatically adapts to recognize subtle appearance changes over time. But this can cause it to get confused by very similar looking faces.
If you’re an identical twin, or bear an uncanny resemblance to a family member, Face ID may struggle. It tries to recognize either face interchangeably.
Open Settings > Face ID & Passcode and enable Set Up An Alternate Appearance. Run through Face ID setup focusing on distinguishing features unique to you.
This trains Face ID to differentiate between highly similar faces.
10. Disable Attention Aware Features
Attention aware features require you to look directly at the iPhone with your eyes open to unlock. Disable these if you have difficulty looking at your phone:
- Settings > Face ID & Passcode
- Turn off Require Attention for Face ID
Now test if Face ID works without having to look directly at the screen.
11. Reset All Settings
Resetting all settings restores various system configurations without erasing data. It can fix software issues causing Face ID glitches.
Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. Enter your passcode and confirm to reset settings.
Your iPhone will restart. Now try to set up and use Face ID again normally.
12. Restore Your iPhone
If all else fails, restore your iPhone to factory settings. Back up your data first, then perform either an iTunes (older iPhones) or iCloud restore (iPhone X/later):
- iTunes Restore – Connect your iPhone to a computer > Open iTunes > Select your Phone > Backup > Restore iPhone
- iCloud Restore – Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Then tap Restore from iCloud Backup once your iPhone restarts.
Restoring erases your data and reinstalls the latest iOS version. Test Face ID after restoring your phone. If issues persist, continue troubleshooting or book a Genius Bar appointment.
Enable Touch ID or Passcode Authentication
While fixing Face ID, use Touch ID or passcode to access your iPhone:
- Touch ID – Enable Touch ID under Settings if your iPhone model supports it. Register your fingerprints to create a backup login method.
- Passcode – Enter your passcode when prompted on the lock screen. Make sure your passcode is updated if you reset Face ID.
Book a Genius Bar Appointment
If you exhausted all troubleshooting steps but Face ID still doesn’t work properly, book a Genius Bar appointment at your local Apple Store.
An Apple Genius can run diagnostics, inspect the TrueDepth camera hardware, and resolve any underlying issues. This may involve replacing modules or the entire iPhone if a hardware fault is detected.
Having AppleCare+ coverage on your iPhone can reduce repair costs if hardware replacement is needed.
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Key Takeaways: Fixing Face ID Not Working
- Restart your iPhone and reset Face ID to refresh the system and facial data
- Check for anything obstructing the TrueDepth camera’s view of your face
- Optimize lighting conditions to improve facial mapping
- Position your face 10-20 inches away and centered in the frame
- Update your iPhone software to get the latest fixes
- Retrain Face ID by enrolling your new appearance if it changed significantly
- Restore your iPhone software to factory settings if necessary
- Use Touch ID or passcode as alternate unlock methods while troubleshooting
- Book a Genius Bar appointment if problems persist after exhausting self-fixes
Frequently Asked Questions About Face ID Issues
Q: Why does Face ID fail to recognize me with sunglasses on?
A: Sunglasses with heavy tinting, polarization, or reflective coatings can interfere with Face ID by obscuring facial features and infrared light from the TrueDepth camera. Try removing your sunglasses or switching to a lighter pair.
Q: Can I make Face ID work faster and more seamlessly?
A: Yes, ensure that you are positioning and centering your face properly in the frame at the optimal 10-20 inch distance. Retrain Face ID in different lighting conditions and angles. Also restart your iPhone regularly which helps Face ID function faster.
Q: How do I get Face ID back after replacing my iPhone screen?
A: The TrueDepth camera needs to be properly calibrated after a screen replacement. Take your iPhone to Apple or an authorized service center for post-repair calibration to restore Face ID functionality.
Q: Why does Face ID unlock my iPhone even when my eyes are closed?
A: “Require Attention” makes you look at the iPhone with eyes open to unlock. Turn this setting off under Face ID & Passcode settings if you don’t want to require eye contact.
Q: Does wearing a face mask prevent Face ID from working properly?
A: Yes, face masks obstruct a large lower portion of your face, confusing Face ID. iOS 15 introduced the ability to unlock iPhone with just your exposed eyes area visible when wearing a mask.
Q: Can I configure multiple appearances to make Face ID work reliably?
A: Yes, you can store alternate appearances such as with/without glasses, lighter/heavier makeup, beard or no beard, and masks. Teach Face ID to recognize you in different looks.
Q: Will replacing my iPhone’s screen disable Face ID permanently?
A: No, a certified technician can re-calibrate the TrueDepth camera after screen replacement to restore Face ID. Use Touch ID or passcode meanwhile.
I hope this expanded troubleshooting guide helps you get Face ID working reliably again on your iPhone! Let me know if you have any other questions.