Apple iPhone face ID fails to work for man with moko kanohi

By Jose Barbosa and Dick Wybrow

Apple iPhones don't like Paaka Edwards' face.

To be fair, the Auckland man's new iPhone 13 Pro Max doesn't recognize his face because of his moko kanohi, a Māori facial tattoo.

This is despite Apple's claims that its face recognition technology can handle a lot of what users throw at it. Hats, glasses, contact lenses, scarves, sunglasses, makeup, dodgy moustaches - even total darkness. The software was also recently updated to work with masks.

The tech works by learning the outline of a user's face, which then becomes the key to unlock the phone to use it.

However, when he tried to set the face ID up, he said he got a warning.

"The message that comes up is 'Face obscured, please remove masking and then try again'," he told The Project on Tuesday.

After spending several hours chatting with Apple customer service to no avail, he took the $2000 phone back to the store and got a new one.

That also didn't work, so he returned phone number 2 and got a third one. That didn't work either.

Apple then asked him to send video footage of him trying to use the facial recognition technology. They determined there was nothing wrong with the phone.

After posting his story on social media, Edwards got dozens of messages from others who'd discovered the same as he had: the iPhone can't recognise a face with a moko kanohi.

However, some others with face tats claimed the tech did work for them.

Edwards said he remains a loyal Apple customer but would like to see the company update its guidance to make it clear its tech does not work with indigenous face markings. Then, he'd like it to work with affected users so it could one day include them.

Yes, Edwards can and has been using a passcode to get into his phone, but he said that's not the point.

"[It's really about] acknowledging that people come in all colours, shapes, and sizes. Is this a company that is inclusive? Are they thinking about this sort of thing?" he told The Project.

"There's an issue going on guys, sort it out. Or if you're not going to sort it out, let us know that you're not."

Apple has promised to get in touch when they've got an update.