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Face unlock easily defeated with photo in over 30 smartphone models

Do you use face unlock on your smartphone? There's a chance that your particular model isn't secure at all.
By
January 8, 2019
LG V40 Notch Face Unlock

We’ve seen a resurgence in face unlock across the mobile industry, arguably due to Apple’s iPhone X touting the technology. Unfortunately, a new study shows that plenty of phones can be defeated with a simple photo.

The Dutch Consumentenbond organization found that out of 110 devices tested, 42 could be unlocked with a high quality photo of the owner (h/t: The Register). To be fair, the organization counted regional and dual-SIM variants as separate models in its testing, so the real number of dodgy devices is actually in the 30s.

Nevertheless, this still represents a massive number of devices that are vulnerable to a simple photo. The list wasn’t restricted to a few manufacturers either, as the likes of Alcatel, BlackBerry, Huawei, Lenovo, Nokia, Sony, and Xiaomi were all featured here.

Most of these phones were budget devices, but we also have a few flagships affected by shoddy face unlock. These devices include the HTC U11 Plus, the Huawei P20 Pro, and Sony’s Xperia XZ2 series.

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The Sony logo at MWC 2018.

There were plenty of devices that passed the test, however, including the Alcatel 3V, Honor 10, HTC U12 Plus, Huawei Mate 20 series, the OnePlus 5T, OnePlus 6, and Samsung’s 2018 flagships. Additionally, all 2018 iPhone models passed the test. Oddly enough, the consumer watchdog also counted different storage variants as separate entries. Weird.

Anyway, the organization found that several unlocked devices had more stringent face unlock settings to defeat photos, such as LG’s 2018 flagships and the Honor 7A. You can check out the full list below.

Remains lockedUnlocked with photoUnlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting
Remains locked
Alcatel 3
Unlocked with photo
Alcatel 1X
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting
Honor 7A
Remains locked
Alcatel 5
Unlocked with photo
Asus Zenfone 5 Lite
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting
LG G7 ThinQ
Remains locked
Apple iPhone XR
Unlocked with photo
Asus Zenfone 5, ZE620KL
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting
LG V35 ThinQ
Remains locked
Apple iPhone XS
Unlocked with photo
BlackBerry Key2
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting
LG V40 ThinQ
Remains locked
Apple iPhone XS Max
Unlocked with photo
BQ Aquaris X2
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Asus Zenfone Max Plus
Unlocked with photo
BQ Aquaris X2 Pro
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Honor 10
Unlocked with photo
General Mobile GM8
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Honor 7C
Unlocked with photo
HTC U11 Plus
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Honor 8X
Unlocked with photo
Huawei P20
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Honor View 10
Unlocked with photo
Huawei P20 Lite
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
HTC U12 Plus
Unlocked with photo
Huawei P20 Pro
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei P Smart Plus
Unlocked with photo
Motorola Moto E5
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei Y6 2018
Unlocked with photo
Motorola Moto E5 Plus
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei Y7 2018
Unlocked with photo
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei Mate 20
Unlocked with photo
LG K9 (LM-X210EMW)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei Mate 20 Lite
Unlocked with photo
LG Q6 Alpha (LG-M700n)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Unlocked with photo
Motorola Moto G6 Play
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Motorola Moto G6
Unlocked with photo
Motorola One
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Motorola Moto G6 Plus
Unlocked with photo
Nokia 3.1
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Motorola Moto Z3
Unlocked with photo
Nokia 7.1
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Motorola Moto Z3 Play
Unlocked with photo
Oukitel VU
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
OnePlus 5T
Unlocked with photo
Samsung Galaxy A7 2018
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
OnePlus 6
Unlocked with photo
Samsung Galaxy A8 (SM-A530F/DS)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Oppo Find X
Unlocked with photo
Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus (SM-A730F)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy A6
Unlocked with photo
Samsung Galaxy J8
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy A6 Plus
Unlocked with photo
Sony Xperia L2 (H3311 and H3321)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy A9
Unlocked with photo
Sony Xperia XZ2 (H8216 and H8266)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy J6
Unlocked with photo
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (H8314 and H8324)
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Unlocked with photo
Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy S9
Unlocked with photo
Sony Xperia XZ3
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Unlocked with photo
Vodafone Smart N9
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

Remains locked
Wiko View 2
Unlocked with photo
Xiaomi Mi A2
Unlocked with photo, but has "stricter" setting

If anything, we hope this study shames brands into paying more attention to facial recognition. Do you use face unlock on your smartphone? Let us know in the comments!

NEXT: Samsung Bixby to support Google apps, first 5G phone coming in H1 2019