What went wrong at the Apple Inc. iPhone X demo?

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By 2017-09-25

By Shenali Welikala

If there was much talk about a demonstration fail, then its the face-recognition unlocking feature failure of iPhone X. This all happened as Craig Federighi the software head of Apple Inc. (AAPL) was doing a live demo.

At its launch event, the company had earlier described Face ID a being "effortless" to use, and more accurate than its fingerprint based Touch ID system. What exactly happened during the demo? What created all this chaos?

For all those who are not aware, it happened just as Craig started the demo. "Unlocking, it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up," he said. Then he picked the phone at his podium to try to unlock it. Then there was a pause and right away the keen audience knew that something was wrong. The software heads face said it all. He tried afresh by hitting the sleep switch to turn off the screen. "Lets try that again", he said. There was no luck. The screen did not open. "Lets go to back-up here, he said". There was a second phone on the podium, and he used it as his much needed backup. This time the face ID worked, but all knew that something indeed went wrong with the highly promoted face ID system.

Hours later, the incident landed as headlines of many prominent blogs, newspapers and sites. "Apple suffers embarrassing demo Face ID fail at iPhone X launch," wrote the Telegraph. "Apples Face ID unlocking failed during its big demo," said the Business Insider and "The Apples stock suddenly dropped after that Face ID fail", this was Vice! Its the common understanding that people do create mountains out of Molehills in such situations, but the real problem is not it. Is there actually a glitch in the Apples Face ID feature in its flagship phone or was it just a simple error?

Here is the issue. The older authentication system is not available on the new premium handset since it does not have a fingerprint sensor. Apple has stated that the Face ID will be disabled just after two unsuccessful attempts. In the case of the Touch ID, it only requires the passcode to be manually typed only after five failed tries. In the actual scenario your fingerprint data are not stored in your phone. It just keeps a numeric representation of your fingerprints called the Secure Enclave. This is the data that is compared when you place your fingertip on the sensor, but when the phone is restarted it requires a passcode to unlock this feature itself. Else the phone can recognize your fingerprint. It is the same with the Face ID feature.

It is the background as to what caused all this chaos at the demo. Somebody in the process of setting up the heads demo phone has restarted it before the show. Therefore "Passcode is required" message protected the face data feature.

This is proof as to how a minor error can create huge problems. One needs to be precautious in such situations especially regarding such high end product demos or launches since the presentation itself holds the entire companys reputation. All companies should watch out! Its high time to be attentive even to minor details. This time it was Apple, but next time, who will face it?




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