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The best phones with facial recognition: iPhone X, Galaxy S9, LG G7 and more

A look at the most popular phones that let you unlock the screen (and sometimes even pay for stuff) with your face.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Testing out Apple's FaceID.

CNET

In addition to using your fingerprint, unlocking your phone with your face isn't exactly new. As far back as 2011, Google included face unlock in its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS and Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone. The feature, however, was easy to bypass, and since that time phone companies have been working to make it more secure, faster and smoother. Samsung, for instance, now uses a mixture of facial recognition and iris scanning to unlock its Galaxy S9.

Apple, however, uses another method that, while not perfect, works better than its competitors. Branded as FaceID and implemented on the iPhone X, it uses an infrared camera, a depth sensor and a dot projector to map out 30,000 points on your face and create an artificial 3D scan. FaceID is secure enough, in fact, to use for digital payments through Apple Pay.

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Most Android phones these days don't have this level of face unlocking, and don't integrate the feature with digital payments. But some are following in Apple's footsteps, with Xiaomi announcing a similar infrared method in their latest phones. With the launch of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor, which supports the infrared mapping technology, we can only expect more Android phones to better improve their face unlock feature.

In the meantime, check out our top phones that have facial recognition and let us know in the comments what you think about this technology. Do you like using it or do you prefer a fingerprint reader or PIN instead?


Apple iPhone X

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Apple Phone X

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As mentioned above, the iPhone X uses one of the more sophisticated and fastest methods of facial recognition. It's not completely impenetrable, however, and it doesn't work smoothly 100 percent of the time. But it works notably better than most. Read CNET's review of the iPhone X.


Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9 (left) and S9 Plus

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As an attempt to improve last year's face unlock technology (more on that later), the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus employ a new feature called Intelligent Scan. It combines Samsung's secure iris scanner with its less-secure facial recognition technology. Read CNET's review of the Galaxy S9.


LG G7

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LG G7

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The G7 ThinQ is waterproof, has an AI camera that gives your photos a boost before you snap them and a secondary wide-angle rear camera. Like its more high-end counterpart, the V35 ThinQ, both have face recognition. Read CNET's review of the G7.


Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Josh Miller/CNET

Launched last year after the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, the Note 8 was among Samsung's first round of phones that featured a stable version of face unlock. Needless to say, it wasn't very secure and could easily be fooled by a printed photo, prompting Samsung to say that the feature was more for convenience than security. Um, okay. Read CNET's review of the Note 8.


OnePlus 6

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OnePlus 6

Known for making phones with high-end specs at a more affordable price tag, OnePlus continues to carve a name for itself in the Android phone space. Its latest OnePlus 6 flagship, which packs a 6.28-inch screen, dual rear cameras and a Snapdragon 845 processor, employs one of the fastest face unlock technology we've experienced. Read CNET's review of the OnePlus 6.


Motorola Moto G6

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Motorola Moto G6

Josh Miller/CNET

The Moto G6 is proof you don't need to spend a lot for face unlock. It has a near-stock version of Android Oreo, decent dual-rear cameras and its battery charges fast. It's also remarkably affordable at $249, £219 and AU$399. Read CNET's review of the Moto G6.


Huawei Honor 7X

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Huawei Honor 7X

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As another affordable phone, the Honor 7X from 2017 features a 5.93-inch display, a depth-sensing 16-megapixel camera that can take portrait photos and a quad-core processor. But don't let the mid-range specs fool you; Huawei is known to boast about its face unlocking technology, saying that the feature in its more recent Honor 7C and 7A works faster than Apple's FaceID. Read CNET's preview of the Honor 7X.


Xiaomi Mi 8

Xiaomi Mi 8 phone

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition

James Martin/CNET

Though not well-known outside countries like China and India, Xiaomi has garnered a reputation for making high-quality phones for much less than other popular flagships. In June, it released the transparent Mi 8 Explorer Edition. It's the first Android phone to feature the iPhone X method for face unlock, employing 30,000 infrared points on the face. Read CNET's preview of the Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition.

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