How to Fix It When the iPhone Face ID is Not Working

Get your iPhone recognizing you again

The iPhone's Face ID security feature gives your thumb a rest by using the device's front-facing camera to grant access to your phone and Apple Pay instead of a passcode or thumbprint. Problems with Face ID appear when you're trying to unlock your phone. You may or may not receive a prompt to enter your passcode.

A hand holding an iPhone on which Face ID is not working
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Causes of iPhone Face ID Not Working

Because Face ID uses both software and the camera, either could be at fault when the feature malfunctions. You'll have a few items to check when you're troubleshooting the issue, but some possible reasons include:

  • The camera is dirty or blocked.
  • Your face is obscured.
  • Your version of iOS is out of date.
  • Face ID is having another issue.

Apple has also built in several features that stop Face ID from working to keep your device more secure. The following conditions will prompt your phone to ask for your passcode instead, but none of them mean that the feature is broken.

  • You haven't unlocked your device in more than two days (48 hours).
  • You haven't used Face ID in over four hours and haven't used your passcode in more than six and a half days (156 hours).
  • You've used Find My iPhone to lock your device.
  • The Emergency SOS feature is active on your phone.

How to Fix It When Face ID Isn't Working

Because problems with Face ID can come from a variety of sources, you'll have to try several fixes to get it going again. Here are some things to try.

  1. Make sure nothing is blocking your face or your camera. For Face ID to function properly, your eyes, nose, and mouth all need to be visible to the camera.

    If it isn't your clothes obstructing the view, make sure your finger isn't covering the lens. You might also try removing or adjusting your phone case in case it's getting in the way.

  2. Ensure you're holding your iPhone correctly. While Face ID on iPad works regardless of which way you're holding the tablet, it won't work on iPhone unless the phone is in portrait (vertical) orientation.

    Face ID also only works within a certain range of your face, so try holding your phone closer or farther away.

  3. Clean the camera lens. Dirt and oil can stop your iPhone camera from working, so a quick wipe-down with a microfiber cloth can solve the problem.

  4. Restart your phone. If physical fixes don't work, a software reset may work. Try turning your phone off, power it back up, and enter your passcode. Then, lock it and try opening it with Face ID again.

  5. Check to see if Face ID is on. Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode, and then make sure the switches for the features you're trying to use Face ID with (for example, Phone Unlock) are set to the on/green position.

  6. Turn off "Require Attention." One option in Face ID prevents it from working unless you're actually looking at the camera. If your device isn't unlocking, it's possible the camera isn't properly registering your eyes. To deactivate this feature, open Face ID & Passcode, and then scroll down and turn the switch next to Require Attention for Face ID to off/white.

  7. Set up an alternate appearance. While Face ID can recognize you despite minor changes in appearance, like if you gain or lose facial hair or start wearing glasses, it won't go along with more drastic differences.

    On the Face ID & Passcode screen, tap Set Up an Alternate Appearance to add more looks to your phone. This option won't replace your original face; it's more like adding extra fingerprints to Touch ID.

  8. Check for an iOS update. Face ID may need an update to start working correctly. Go to Settings > General > Software Update to see if a new version of the operating system is available. Once your device has downloaded and installed it, unlock it with your passcode, lock it again, and then see if Face ID works.

  9. Reset Face ID. The most drastic measure you can take is to completely reset Face ID and set it up from scratch. In the Settings app, tap Face ID & Passcodes, and then select Reset Face ID. You'll go through the initial setup again, and then you can see if your phone unlocks without issue.

  10. Contact Apple. If nothing else works, your iPhone may have some hardware or software issues that require more intensive attention. Head to Apple's support page to enter your specific problem and start a service request.