Squeeze iPhone X to prevent theft, suggests Apple's Federighi

Commentary: In an email to a developer, Apple's SVP of software engineering offers two ways to stop thieves from making off with your iPhone X.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
Watch this: iPhone X's hidden security trick

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Enlarge Image

Before this happens, squeeze.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

And the doubts have begun.

Yes, Apple claims that Face ID on the iPhone X is far more secure than Touch ID ever was.

Yet the poetic and the paranoid have already been concocting scenarios in which unlocking your phone with facial recognition is fraught with danger.

What if, for example, a thief -- or, perish the idea, a police officer -- demands you stare at your phone to unlock it?

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering -- who had his own seeming snafu (denied by Apple) with Face ID during Apple's event on Tuesday -- says there are two things you can do to stop nefarious actors from forcing you into Face ID.

Developer Keith Krimbel boldly emailed him to ask about the problem. He posted Federighi's reply to Twitter.

Federighi's first solution was a little obvious: "If you don't stare at the phone, it won't unlock." 

Thieves -- or even the police -- aren't always so reasonable as to let you not do what they want. They might just force you to stare. 

His second suggestion, though, was fascinating. 

"If you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when you hand it over, it will temporarily disable Face ID," he said.

It's unclear for how long such an action might knock out the system. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearly, iPhone X owners will have to practice their squeezing techniques. It would be painful and costly to be held up and discover that you were squeezing it all wrong.

Still, one has to believe that this will be possible.

Federighi also replied to a question about whether Face ID would work with sunglasses. 

"With most, but not all," he said. "Most sunglasses let through enough IR (Infra-red) light that Face ID can see your eyes even when the glasses appear to be opaque. It's really amazing!" 

It would, indeed, be awkward -- especially for those living in California, where shades are de rigueur, even inside restaurants -- to discover that they prevented you from unlocking your phone.

Still, the iPhone X won't appear in the real world until November 3. Perhaps it's worth squeezing your existing phone a few times, just to train the muscles. You'll have to make it instinctual very quickly.