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Inexplicably, Apple's new M1 iMac doesn't include face logins

Apple's relationship with webcams and biometric logins is just weird.

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Apple’s latest M1 iMacs may include powerful new M1 Arm chips that some in the Windows world may covet. But the company has yet to acknowledge that people like logging in with their face. Where are the Windows Hello depth cameras for the Mac?

Apple’s new M1-powered iMacs debuted on Tuesday with biometric identification in the form of a Touch ID fingerprint reader. Touch ID readers have been built into some (but not all!) of the new Magic Keyboards accompanying the new colorful iMacs that Apple announced on Tuesday, and they don’t appear to be sold separately. You’ll need to pay at least $1,499 for the privilege of using your finger to log in, purchase something via Apple Pay, or switch between users.

That’s a cool idea—or it was, six years ago, when Microsoft first launched the concept of logging you in with your face via Windows Hello. Since then, Windows Hello has become nearly default on Windows laptops, either via a fingerprint reader or as a depth camera that can recognize your face. Microsoft has succeeded in going mostly password-free (thanks to Hello and phone-based authentication), while the iMac finally discovered this in 2021.

Apple added Touch ID to the Mac in 2016 with the launch of the 2016 MacBook Pro, and added Face ID to the iPhone X a year later. So isn’t it just a little weird that Apple still hasn’t added Face ID to a Mac, even now?

Weird webcams

Apple’s relationship with webcams in general has been...complicated. While Apple has tried to make “shot on iPhone” a watchword, this is the first generation of Apple iMacs that have included a 1080p webcam. We know that the 2016 MacBook Pro included a 720p webcam, but Macworld’s review didn’t even mention it. That wouldn’t have happened if Apple had made the webcam a priority, guaranteed. 

A year earlier, the ecosystem of Windows laptops was already discovering how marvelous Windows Hello cameras could be. A dozen PCs already had Intel’s RealSense depth cameras built in, with more to come. When we wrote how Microsoft’s Surface cameras were suddenly special last year during the pandemic, we were commenting on how the color fidelity and resolution made them ideal for a pandemic. Windows Hello depth cameras, by then, were simply taken for granted. 

Today, Apple leaned into the very weird way in which people like taking photos with their iPads. (There’s a subtle joke at the end of a Progressive Insurance commercial—which is all about avoiding turning into your parents—where someone snaps a photo with a tablet.) Features like studio-quality mics now are a plus, so that content creators can use iPads as photo tools? Okay. But Apple's latest iPad even has a TrueDepth camera for Face ID, too. So why not the iMac?

There’s really no obvious path through this maze. Apple’s decided that the iPhone should be its premier tool for imaging, and that users should have either a fingerprint reader or Face ID camera to log them in. Apparently (and inexplicably), iPads should now apparently be premier imaging devices, too, with Face ID login capabilities. But someone at Apple decreed that MacBooks should have fingerprint readers only, as should iMacs.

Our colleagues at Macworld have already wondered when Face ID will arrive on the Mac. We, fortunately, don’t have to wonder—we can simply go back to the ecosystem of Windows devices where Windows Hello simply works.

This story was updated at 3:34 PM to note that Apple's new iPad has a depth camera and Face ID.

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