Why Is Face ID Missing from the 2021 M1 iMac?

The colorful M1 iMac comes with a stunning new design and several improvements, but one feature that’s noticeably missing is Face ID. Since 2017, Apple’s facial authentication technology has enabled iPhone and iPad Pro users to unlock their devices with just a glance.

Nearly four years later, Face ID still hasn’t appeared on a Mac. Instead, the new 24-inch iMac can have a Touch ID button built into the keyboard, if you buy the right model. This flagship desktop Mac seems like the perfect fit for the feature. So why doesn’t the 2021 iMac have Face ID?

Biometric Authentication on the Mac: Laptops Lead the Way

When Apple revealed its first M1 Mac laptops—the 2020 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro—their designs were virtually unchanged from the previous, Intel-based models. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising that they held onto the Touch ID button. However, desktop Macs still lacked any kind of biometric authentication.

Finally, Apple added Touch ID to the 24-inch iMac by including a Touch ID button on the wireless Magic Keyboard.

It’s a welcome addition, but it’s also a strange choice because there has always seemed to be a better option: Face ID.

After all, an iMac is almost always sitting right in front of you. It has a camera built into the display, so there are no wireless authentication challenges. And you won’t accidentally cover up the sensor—a minor but common nuisance on the iPad Pro.

Additionally, since the 2021 iMac’s M1 chip is based on the same Apple Silicon found in the M1 iPad Pros, it’s clear that the chip can support Face ID.

There are also software features that would benefit from Face ID, including one that Apple highlighted in its own press release: Fast User Switching

Fast User Switching: A Perfect Missed Opportunity

Fast User Switching lets users quickly switch between multiple accounts on one computer. On supported Macs, simply pressing the Touch ID button with a fingerprint that matches a user account will automatically switch to that account.

It’s a great example of Apple’s talent for taking potentially annoying tasks and making them effortlessly convenient. Face ID would make this feature even more seamless.

Imagine if Face ID could instantly recognize you when you sit down in front of your iMac and switch to your account automatically, no buttons required. It’s the kind of capability that makes people fans of Apple’s devices, and it’s another reason to ask: why does the iMac use Touch ID?

Touch ID Arguments That Don’t Hold Up

While Apple probably won’t give a specific answer, it’s possible to explore its past decisions for hints. Some potential explanations hold up, but others quickly fall apart.

The Face ID Sensor Doesn’t Fit in The iMac’s Thin Display

The 2021 iMac is just 0.45 inches thick—so thin that the headphone jack has moved to the side. That might make you wonder if the computer is too thin to house a Face ID sensor until you consider that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Face ID is only 0.25 inches thick.

Screen thickness remains a valid argument for the paper-thin screens of Apple’s laptops, but it doesn’t hold up for the iMac.

The iMac’s Camera Array Isn’t Good Enough to Support Face ID

The 2021 iMac features a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, which pales in comparison to the 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the iPhone 12 Pro.

While it’s true that Face ID won’t work with a 1080p camera, the real question is why Apple didn’t put a TrueDepth sensor in the iMac. It has already squeezed the technology into the iPhone’s notch.

Upgrading the iMac to a better TrueDepth camera system would have been a double win.

Apple Likes Touch ID…Even When It’s Not the Best

The new Magic Keyboard is a $50 add-on for the base model iMac and comes standard on all other configurations. The biggest downside isn’t the price, though; it’s the lock-in. If you want to use Touch ID with your new iMac, you can only use Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

This limitation leaves all of the people who use third-party keyboards with an unfortunate choice between Touch ID and their favorite keyboards.

Credible Reasons Why the M1 iMac Doesn’t Have Face ID

Some explanations do hold up as potential motivations for Apple’s decision to use Touch ID instead of Face ID.

Apple Withholds Features for “Pro” Products

Setting up Face ID on iPhone has been a necessary substitute on devices without a Touch ID home button since the iPhone X debuted in 2017.

But when Apple removed the Home button from the iPad Air—giving it the same design language as the iPad Pro—it didn’t add Face ID. Instead, the iPad Air gained a new version of Touch ID that’s built into the lock button.

This is just one example of Apple’s tendency to make some of its most cutting-edge features exclusive to “pro” devices—at least temporarily. Here are a few more examples:

From 2016 to 2018, the MacBook Pro had a Touch ID sensor while the MacBook Air didn’t.

The iPhone 11 Pro models featured three cameras instead of two.

The iPhone 12 Pro models gained the LIDAR sensor while the non-pro models didn’t.

The second-generation Apple Pencil only worked with the iPad Pro until the 4th-generation iPad Air.

Notably, the 27-inch iMac hasn’t yet received its M1 redesign. While it’s unlikely to inherit the “Pro” name from the discontinued iMac Pro, it will be taking its place as Apple’s highest-performance all-in-one, making it a prime candidate for Face ID.

The Price of Face ID Components Might Be Too High

That 2020 iPad Air also hints at another potential reason for the iMac’s lack of Face ID: Apple’s gross margins. The company’s margins are remarkably steady from quarter to quarter. Clearly, they’re a significant factor in Apple’s product decisions and pricing.

Products Gross Margin Since Q1 2020

QuarterProducts Gross MarginQ2 202136.1%Q1 202135.1%Q4 202029.8%Q3 202029.7%Q2 202030.3%Q1 202034.2%

This could partly explain why the company chose Touch ID for the 2020 iPad Air instead of Face ID. The TrueDepth components could be too expensive to maintain the product margin while hitting the iPad Air’s $599 starting price. For comparison, the 11-inch iPad Pro with Face ID starts at $799.

Similarly, the cost of including the TrueDepth sensor could be too high for the 24-inch iMac’s $1,299 starting price—an important price point as Apple’s entry-level all-in-one.

People Sit Too Far Away for Face ID

One benefit of a big-screen computer is that you can sit a few feet away and still comfortably use it. This could be a challenge for the current TrueDepth sensor that powers Face ID.

According to an Apple support document, Face ID works best when your iPhone or iPad is about 10 to 20 inches from your face. Although many people probably sit closer than 20 inches from their computer screens, it’s possible that the experience isn’t quite up to Apple’s strict reliability standards.

Future Features: It’s a Guessing Game

The 24-inch M1 iMac is a stunning upgrade over its predecessor, with striking colors and a thin chassis. So it’s hard not to wonder why Apple chose its older Touch ID technology over Face ID for this bold new Mac.

It’s unlikely that the company will provide a straightforward answer, but you can watch for hints at the truth in Apple’s future product releases.

Whatever the reason, Touch ID is still a great addition to the iMac, and it’s just one of many fun new features to explore.

Source: https://www.makeuseof.com/why-is-face-id-missing-from-the-2021-m1-imac/

Join the Discussion

  • BrokerEUR/USD
    SpreadEX 0.6pips (variable) margin: 3.33%
    CMC Markets 0.7pips. (variable) margin: 3.33%
  • Back to top