While all of Apple's tech used for Face ID on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR is impressive, it's debatable whether it's more convenient than Touch ID. There are also concerns that your face could be used to track shopping patterns or be seen during mass surveillance by intelligence agencies. More importantly, it could be easier for law enforcement, and even thieves, to force you to unlock your iPhone.
Apple claims that Face ID is 20 times stronger than Touch ID, but no matter which one you're using, the same concern comes up: Can the police, muggers, and other would-be assailants force you to unlock your iPhone using biometric verification? Or could an evil twin use their own face to unlock your new iPhone X, XS, XS Max, or XR? (The answer to that last one is most definitely yes.)
When it comes to law enforcement, we already know that it's legal for cops to make you unlock your iPhone with Touch ID as long as they have a warrant. And we can assume that the same can be said for Face ID one day. However, they cannot legally make you unlock the device using a passcode or password because of the Fifth Amendment.
So is there a way you can quickly disable Face ID in a few seconds without anybody being any wiser, to prevent law enforcement and other outsiders from using your face to unlock the device? Yes, and it was confirmed by Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, in an email correspondence with Keith Krimbel way back in September 2017. However, there are actually a few options for doing this.
To disable Face ID in a pinch, either from the lock screen, the home screen, or any open app, simply press and hold the Side button at the same time as either the Volume Up or Volume Down button. You could even press and hold all three together if you wanted. Hold for about two seconds.
If you ended up taking a screenshot instead (if you chose to use the Volume Up button), then you didn't press and hold for long enough. You need to see the "slide to power off" switch come up. As soon as that screen appears, let go, or else you'll accidentally start the countdown for Emergency SOS and call 911.
Important note: If your face already unlocked the screen before doing the button press combination, or if you were already in an unlocked state on the home screen or in an app, then you must either click the Side button once to turn the screen off or let it fall asleep itself. Handing it over without doing this step will still give them access to your phone since it's already currently unlocked.
On all other iPhone models in iOS 11 and iOS 12, clicking the Side button (aka the Sleep/Wake (power) button) 5 times in a row will activate the Emergency SOS screen, which will disable Touch ID until a passcode is entered.
With the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR, clicking the Side button five times quickly will also activate Emergency SOS, only it will go straight into countdown mode, not the screen that also has "slide to power off" on it, so you'll have to manually stop it from calling 911. But after doing so, you will have effectively disabled Face ID, just like with the other option.
Important note: Just like with Option 1, if your face already unlocked the screen before doing the five clicks, or if you were already in an unlocked state on the home screen or in an app, then you must either click the Side button once to turn the screen off or let it fall asleep itself. Handing it over without doing this step will still give them access to your phone since it's already currently unlocked.
If you don't like this method, or you're scared that you might accidentally call 911, you can disable the five-click shortcut in the Settings app. Just tap on "Emergency SOS" and toggle off "Also Works with 5 Clicks."
Other ways to disable Face ID on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR without going into the Settings is to have too many failed Face ID attempts and to shut down or restart the device, the latter of which was seen at Apple's September 2017 event where Federighi had to enter the passcode before being able to use Face ID on stage. However, shutting down and restarting the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR is overkill if you just want to disable Face ID temporarily, since you have to do the same thing as in Option 1, but with more steps.
For more information about what you can do on the new iPhone X, XS, XS Max, or XR, make sure to check out our full collection of tips and tricks.
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