Apple, Inc.'s Epic Face ID Fail: Not a Fail After All?

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If you were watching the live stream, you probably cringed. The very first action performed on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new iPhone X totally -- and embarrassingly -- failed during Apple's Sept. 12 product event. Or did it?

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After examining the logs of the iPhone X used for the demo, Apple says its new Face ID technology didn't fail, after all. Going further, Apple said it did exactly what it was supposed to do. 

Here's what really went down. But first, let's relive that uncomfortable moment.

Apple's humiliating moment

Apple vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, couldn't have set up the moment to be any more awkward. "This is a phone we've been dreaming about for a long time. But the reality of it in your hand -- it's really something epic," Federighi said as he walked up to the iPhone X and picked it up. A live video of the iPhone X's display was then blown up on the new Steve Jobs Theater's big screen for everyone to see.

"Now, unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up," Federighi said. In the same moment, the facial recognition appeared to fail to do its job. Federighi was locked out of Apple's long-awaited 10th anniversary iPhone.

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He lowered the device and his words stumbled, "...and, you know." He tried again. It still didn't work. "Oh, oh, oh!" Federighi exclaimed. "Let's go to backup here," he said. And he proceeded to embarrassingly enter the passcode to get into the device.

Expectations were high for Face ID. Leading up to the event, the technology was heralded as a core feature that would set the phone apart from its predecessors.

"Upgrades to core technologies aside, the new iPhone's crown jewel will be a 3-D facial scanning sensor that will unlock device and authenticate purchase -- an industry first," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said a few weeks before the new iPhone's unveiling.

Apple's Phil Schiller similarly hyped up Face ID before Federighi took the stage for the first hands-on time with the phone. "With the iPhone X, your phone is locked until you look at it and it recognizes you," Schiller said when first introducing Face ID. "Nothing has ever been simpler, more natural, and effortless."

It sounded like a game-changing feature. Until it didn't work.

iPhone X logs save the day

But after Apple went back to look at the iPhone X's logs to see exactly what happened at the event, the company is now attempting to clean up bad press stemming from the embarrassing moment. Apple set the record straight in a statement to Yahoo! Finance:

People were handling the device for stage demo ahead of time and didn't realize Face ID was trying to authenticate their face. After failing a number of times, because they weren't Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.

If Face ID really didn't deliver a seamless experience for users, Apple would be at risk of a major public-relations nightmare -- and possibly even a drop in iPhone sales if reviewers acknowledged a poor user experience. But Apple investors don't have to worry. Face ID looks like it's a win after all.

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Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.