iPhone Face ID Not Working? Here is the Fix

There are many potential uses for the facial ID feature on your iPhone. You can sign into apps, for instance, or authenticate purchases. It’s exciting new technology, but if yours is malfunctioning, then it can be frustrating for you. The first thing you’ll need to do is check to see if your iPhone model supports face ID.

Which iPhone Models Support Face ID?

As the face ID technology is relatively new to iPhone, only a few models on the market feature it. If you have iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XR, or iPhone X, then you can set up and use facial ID on your phone. Any earlier models do not have it.

Video Guide

We have posted multiple solutions below. You can also review our video guide to fixing Face ID.

Check for Any Updates

Once you have determined that your iPhone is one of the models that supports facial ID, you should check for any updates to iOS. Be sure to back up your iPhone by using iTunes or iCloud before you do any updates. You do not want to lose any of your data.

1. Plug your device into an outlet, and connect to the internet using Wi-Fi.

2. Tap Settings.

3. Hit General.

4. If you see that there is a software update, hit Install. You may see a message that tells you to temporarily remove apps because iOS needs additional space for the update. You can tap Continue, assuming that you don’t mind reinstalling the apps later.

5. You can also tap Install Tonight if you would prefer that the update be installed while you are sleeping. Just be sure to connect the iPhone to power when you go to bed.

6. Once you have installed the update, check to see if facial ID is fixed. If that hasn’t done the trick, move on to the next option.

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Face ID Software Update

Check Your Face ID Settings

Checking the face ID settings on your iPhone can help you determine whether the phone is configured so that you can use this feature.

1. Go to Settings.

2. Head to Face ID & Passcode.

3. Check to see if Face ID is set up correctly. You should also check to see if the features for which you are trying to use Face ID, such as iPhone unlock or Apple Pay, are turned on.

Face ID

What to do if Face ID is not Set Up Yet

If you haven’t yet set up Face ID, you need to do that before you can use any of the features with which it is associated.

1. Go to Settings.

2. Head to Face ID and Passcode. You should enter your passcode here when prompted to do so.

3. Tap where it says Set Up Face ID.

4. Make sure that you are holding your iPhone in portrait orientation position. Position your face in front of the device, then hit Get Started.

5. Position your face so that it is entirely inside the frame. Gently move your head, completing the circle. If you are not able to move your head as dictated, tap Accessibility Options.

6. When you finish the Face ID scan, tap Continue.

7. Gently move your head around, completing the second circle.

8. Tap Done. If you have not yet set a passcode, then you will be prompted to do so at this time. It’s an alternate way of verifying your identity in case the Face ID feature ever malfunctions.

Set Up Face ID

Check to See if the TrueDepth Camera is Covered

If you have gotten to this point and tried the options we mentioned, but the facial ID is still not working, then you should check to see if the TrueDepth camera is not obstructed in any way. That is what the iPhone uses for this feature.

The TrueDepth camera is located on the front of your iPhone, near the top. If your phone is in a case or there is a screen protector on it that is blocking the camera, then you will need to remove it for this feature to work correctly. Also, check for any dirt, grime, or other buildup.
You should also check to see if the camera is in landscape mode. If it is, then make sure that your palm or finger is not blocking it when you’re trying to use it. If that is what is happening, look for the alert at the top of the screen that says “Camera Covered,” with the arrow pointing in the direction of the TrueDepth camera.

Make Sure Your Face is Uncovered

You should next check to make sure that nothing is covering your face which is keeping the TrueDepth camera from recognizing you. Your eyes, nose, and mouth must all be fully visible to the camera.

The face ID feature works with many kinds of sunglasses, but not all of them. If you are wearing sunglasses that are intended to block particular types of light, for instance, then they may be blocking the infrared light that the TrueDepth camera uses. Remove your sunglasses to see if that does the trick.

Face the TrueDepth Camera Directly

If that hasn’t solved the problem, check that you are facing the TrueDepth camera directly. Face ID can only work when the camera is in portrait orientation, and you are squarely facing it.

Think of the TrueDepth camera as having the same range of view as if you were doing a FaceTime call or taking a selfie. Your iPhone should be about 10-20 inches from your face, or about an arm’s length, for this technology to work.

Face the Camera

Add on an Alternate Appearance

Face identification should learn to recognize you even if you change aspects of your appearance. Still, if you look vastly different, like if you’ve grown a heavy beard, for example, then you can set up an alternate appearance feature so that Face ID still recognizes you.

1. Go to Settings.

2. Go to Face ID and Passcode. Enter your passcode when prompted.

3. Hit Set Up an Alternate Appearance.

4. Look straight into the iPhone and make sure that your face is inside the frame.

5. Gently move your head so that the circle is completed. If you cannot move your head, hit Accessibility Options.

6. When the first facial scan is finished, hit Continue.

7. Move your head to complete the circle a second time.

8. When Face ID setup indicates the process is finished, hit Done.

Reset Face ID Mode

If you’ve tried all that we mentioned and nothing has worked so far, the time has probably come to reset the face ID feature.

1. Go to Settings.

2. Go to Face ID and Passcode.

3. Hit Reset Face ID.

4. Hit Set Up Face ID and set it up again according to the directions detailed earlier.

If you have gone through every one of these steps and nothing has been successful and especially if there is a message on your device that says “Face ID is Not Available” or “Unable to Activate Face ID on this Phone”, then you should contact Apple Support. Explain to them everything that you have done to fix the problem, and see if they have any suggestions. It seems likely that they will want you to take the device to a Genius Bar to get it looked over. It could be something having to do with the hardware that needs to be replaced.