iPhone X’s Face ID has at least 3 cool hidden features

And I'm not just talking about selfie portraits or animated poop.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy | Team leadership | Audience engagement | Tips and FAQs | iPhone | Samsung | Android | iOS
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

You probably know that Apple's new Face ID feature will unlock the  iPhone X  and secure mobile payments with  Apple Pay . You might even know that the front-facing camera behind Face ID can apply portrait mode to selfies and also breathe life into animated emojis, or "animoji."

But did you know that Face ID knows when you're looking at the screen, and then makes the iPhone X respond?

According to Apple's website, when you're looking at the screen, Face ID will:

  • Reveal notification and messages for your eyes only
  • Keep the screen lit when you're reading (don't you hate when it dims before you're ready?)
  • Lower the volume of an alarm or ringer, because you can hear it, already, I mean, you're right there

Apple isn't the first to keep the screen lit when you're reading; an optional Samsung feature called Smart Stay has done the same since the Galaxy S3 in 2012. Apple's Face ID takes it a step further by linking notifications and ringer volume to your eyeballs (hopefully this won't drain your battery too much in the process).

This subtler part of Face ID is the type of context-aware AI that devicemakers have been struggling to make people care about. For example, the HTC U series has included AI meant to learn your behavior and surface info like notifications for things you care about most. 

Huawei's Honor Magic purported to use the phone's sensors to know who you were, what you were doing and what you wanted next. This kind of background AI so far hasn't caught on, and frankly works with varying levels of success, but it's also something that could quietly become a mainstay for phones in the not-too-distant future.

Apple's least-flashy use for Face ID may be its most convenient for phone owners, because in order to benefit from it, you won't have to do anything at all.

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