Getting to know Face ID on the iPad Pro

Unlocking the iPad Pro with your face is kind of like living in the future.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read
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Beyond its square exterior, one of the first things you'll surely notice about the new 2018 iPad Pro is the lack of a home button. And without a home button, the iPad Pro no longer has Touch ID to unlock the tablet or purchase apps in the App Store.

Instead, Apple has brought Face ID to the iPad for the first time. In fact, it's the first device outside of the iPhone to gain the company's facial recognition feature.

In many ways, Face ID on the iPad Pro works a lot like it does on the iPhone. However, the feature has learned a few new tricks. Let's take a look. 

Watch this: iPad Pro: Is it a computer now?


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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

During the initial setup of your iPad Pro, you're prompted to set up Face ID. If you skipped through this process, don't worry, can you set up Face ID in Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Set up Face ID.

The setup process takes under a minute. You'll need to hold the iPad Pro in front of you, with the top of the iPad Pro facing up. This is the only time the location of the True Depth camera system matters when using Face ID (more on that below).

Face ID needs to create a map, if you will, of your face. In order to do so, you need to let the camera system scan your face twice. Hold up the iPad, make sure your face is visible in the circle on the screen, and then rotate your face so the lines around the circle fill in. It's easiest to just move your face in a big circle. Repeat the scan process once more, and then you're done.

Location doesn't matter

When using an iPhone equipped with Face ID, you can only unlock your phone when holding it in a vertical orientation with the top of the phone pointing up.

With the iPad Pro, the location of the True Depth camera doesn't matter outside of the initial setup. Hold the iPad Pro with the sensor to the left, right, top or bottom, and Face ID will work.

Don't cover the camera

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Unless you're actively paying attention to the location of the True Depth camera system, it's likely you will eventually cover it with your hand as you pick up and hold the iPad Pro. Doing so, of course, will prevent the iPad Pro from unlocking.

But instead of leaving it to the user to figure out, the iPad Pro will display a message just above the clock that states "Camera covered" and an arrow will point to the location of the camera.

Not only does this alert show up on the lock screen, but a variation of it will also show up if you have the camera covered up when Face ID is used, such as when buying an app from the App Store.

How far away can you be?

If you're too far away the iPad will either think the camera is covered or display a message that says something along the lines of "Face is too far away." Lean in closer to unlock your iPad. You need to be, as far as I can tell, at about arm's length. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can control when the iPad Pro will try to use Face ID, as well as set up an alternate appearance, and adjust other aspects of Face ID in the iOS Settings app.

Open Settings > Face ID & Passcode and enter your passcode when prompted.

Go setting by setting and ensure Face ID can be used when you want -- or don't want. For example, you may not want Face ID to work with the iOS password autofill feature. Or you may find that Face ID is more reliable for you if you disable Require attention for Face ID, which requires you to be looking at the iPad's display before Face ID will work. Keep in mind, however, that disabling that feature makes Face ID less secure.

iPad Pro 2018 and its accessories

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