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HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro face unlock fooled by two blokes with beards and short hair

The Mate 20 Pros face unlock can't be tricked by a flat image. Two people with similar facial hair have caused it some trouble, however.

Published onOctober 19, 2018

HUAWEI Mate 20 notch
  • Huawei’s face unlock feature may not be as secure as originally thought.
  • A pre-release version of the phone has apparently consistently failed to tell apart two similar looking people at Android Pit.
  • The Face unlock feature is one of the big differences between the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro.

A recent report suggests face unlock on the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro may not be as secure as initially thought. According to Android Pitthe feature consistently mistakes one of its staff members for another on the test device it is using.

If this is representative of all Mate 20 Pros, it could be pretty worrying for HUAWEI.

It’s not unheard of for face unlock on some phones to be tricked by a photograph. However, this generally occurs with devices using 2D tech. The Mate 20 Pro uses sensors to create a 3D map of your face that, HUAWEI claims, won’t be tricked by a flat image. While this is great, it’s not much good if it can instead be easily fooled by someone who looks similar to you.

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The ease with which the system failed is perhaps the most worrying part. According to Android Pit, the phone first unlocked when the other employee was simply checking out the device: it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to fool the phone. The publication was subsequently able to replicate the results despite repeatedly deleting and re-scanning the faces of the two people involved.

In a video that appears to show the flaw, you can see that the two men the phone struggles to tell apart are similar looking, but by no means identical. They have similar hairstyles and beards but their facial features are clearly not the same.

HUAWEI does issue a disclaimer when setting up the software that it could be unlocked by similar looking people or objects — it was never described as flawless. Further, Android Pit notes it’s a pre-release unit and the software isn’t necessarily final (that particular handset could also be faulty).

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Still, HUAWEI told the publication hasn’t encountered this itself, even when testing face unlock with twins. The company is apparently looking into the matter.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this situation is that face unlock is one of the main differences between the Mate 20 and the Mate 20 Pro. It’s also the reason the phone has such a large notch on its screen; the notch houses all the sensors that are required for the feature to work. If the face unlock feature isn’t worth using, that big notch is there for nothing.

Next up: HUAWEI Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro hands-on: Cameras, cubed

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