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Apple disputes report that says Face ID accuracy lowered to meet iPhone X production deadlines

Bloomberg reported earlier today that concerns over the production schedule for the forthcoming iPhone X have led Apple to reduce the accuracy standard for its Face ID feature.

When Foxconn reassigned up to 200 workers away from the iPhone X production line a month ago, it was reportedly the availability of the 3-D sensor which captures the facial image to unlock the device which caused the slowdown.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities reduced his forecast of iPhone X units available in its first quarter from 40 million to between 25 and 30 million units. Kuo recently noted that since the announcement of Face ID as a key iPhone X feature, inquiries into 3-D sensing technologies by Android vendors had at least tripled.

The 3-D sensor consists of an infrared flood illuminator, camera, and dot projector. The dot projector, which beams 30,000 points of infra-red light onto the user’s face, was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be in short supply as Apple struggled to assemble the fragile components. The VCSEL array is made out of semiconductor material gallium arsenide, and the lens it beams through is made of glass, and misplacement by a fraction of a hair’s breadth could break the projector or prevent it from working properly, according to Bloomberg.

Sources told Bloomberg that Apple had underestimated the complexity of working with the components, and that at one point only one-fifth of the dot projectors assembled by LG Innotek Co. and Sharp Corp. were usable.

Apple claimed that Face ID would produce one false positive out of a million when it was unveiled, far better than the one in 50,000 false positive rate for Touch ID, but the effect of Apple’s decision to relax its specifications for Face ID are not yet publicly known.

Apple subsequently released a statement to various media outlets standing by that original claim and denying any change to Face ID accuracy:

“Customer excitement for iPhone X and Face ID has been incredible, and we can’t wait for customers to get their hands on it starting Friday, November 3. Face ID is a powerful and secure authentication system that’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use. The quality and accuracy of Face ID haven’t changed. It continues to be 1 in a million probability of a random person unlocking your iPhone with Face ID.

Bloomberg’s claim that Apple has reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication.”

The company recently responded to questions about the security and privacy of Face ID from Senator Al Franken.

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