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Following the launch of the iPhone X, almost every Android manufacturer rushed to implement facial recognition on their smartphones. Some like Samsung and Huawei have implemented hardware-based solutions, but others rely on the selfie camera to simply detect faces – not such a good idea it turns out, with people faces plastered all over social media.


Dutch non-profit Consumentenbond has worked with international partners to conduct an audit of 110 smartphones with facial recognition. Spoiler alert: 42 of them were unlocked with the kind of photo you’d find on social media or capture on security cams.


Various Digital Forensics & Mobile Phone Forensics are employed on Police Investigations to gain access to locked mobile phone handsets.


Passing the test (thankfully) are Samsung’s high-end and mid-tier offerings from 2018, all the OnePlus phones, Huawei’s Mate 20 series, Motorola’s 2018 phones, and the latest flagships from Asus, Honor, HTC and Oppo. All iPhones passed the test as well.

The LG G7, V35 and V40 passed the test on their highest security setting, but failed on the lower setting as did the Honor 7A.

Failing the test is every single Sony phone, the Huawei P20 series, the Nokias, the Blackberries and all the budget offerings from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Xiaomi and Asus.

The bottom line is, if you have one of these phones that also has a fingerprint scanner, then you’d better stick to that. To see if your phone passes, check the full list here.

In the modern age, it’s incredibly easy for a potential thief to get someone’s photo of social media or take one covertly with their own phone. Attempting a face unlock with a photo is the first and most common test anyone would apply, and if a face unlock system can’t stand up to it, then it’s practically useless. Hopefully, companies will up their game for 2019.



You often unlock a smartphone with a pin code or unlock pattern. That is safe because the phone contains a lot of personal information.

On more and more devices you can identify yourself with your fingerprint, a scan of your face or a scan of the eye (the iris). This so-called biometric security can be safer and above all easier. But it can also be less safe if the technique fails. This is often the case.

face recognition-man points

42 phones fall through the basket

We have been testing the security of face recognition for smartphones for a year now. And what turns out: 42 of the 110 smartphones tested can also be unlocked by holding a good portrait photo of the telephone user for the selfie lens. So basically anyone can do that who holds the phone. 

Among other phones from Samsung (the Galaxy A7 and A8), Huawei (the P20, P20 Lite and P20 Pro), Nokia (models 3.1 and 7.1), Sony (Experia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact) appear vulnerable to the ‘photo hack’. See the complete list below. With these devices it is better to set only a locking code or another form of biometric security (or a combination of both).

It is not the case that all models of the mentioned brands have a weak security. From Samsung, the Galaxy S9, S9 + and Note 9 do not let the garden and the same goes for the Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. The iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR is also not sensitive to our photo trick.


When setting the face unlock, phones often show a warning that the technique is not as safe as others. But security is so weak, not every user will accept it.

We do the smartphone test together with international partners; it is possible that not all models mentioned below are officially available in the Netherlands.

Unlocked devices with a photo

The following devices were unlocked in our test by means of a photo.    

  1. Alcatel 1X
  2. Asus Zenfone 5 Lite 64 GB
  3. Asus Zenfone 5, ZE620KL (64 GB)
  4. BlackBerry Key2
  5. BlackBerry Key2 (US version)
  6. BQ Aquaris X2
  7. BQ Aquaris X2 Pro
  8. General Mobile GM8
  9. HTC U11 +
  10. Huawei P20 (EML – L29)
  11. Huawei P20 Lite
  12. Huawei P20 Pro (CLT – L29)
  13. Lenovo Motorola Moto E5
  14. Lenovo Motorola Moto E5 (BR version)
  15. Lenovo Motorola Moto E5 Plus (BR version)
  16. Lenovo Motorola Moto G6 Play
  17. LG K9 (LM-X210EMW)
  18. LG Q6 Alpha (LG-M700n)
  19. Motorola Moto G6 Play (BR version)
  20. Motorola One
  21. Nokia 3.1
  22. Nokia 3.1 (US version)
  23. Nokia 7.1
  24. Oukitel VU
  25. Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
  26. Samsung Galaxy A8 (32GB) (SM-A530F / DS
  27. Samsung Galaxy A8 (64 GB)
  28. Samsung Galaxy A8 + (SM-A730F)
  29. Samsung Galaxy J8 Brasil
  30. Sony Xperia L2 (H3311)
  31. Sony Xperia L2 (H3321)
  32. Sony Xperia XZ2 (H8216)
  33. Sony Xperia XZ2 (US version)
  34. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (H8314)
  35. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (US version)
  36. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Dual SIM (H8324)
  37. Sony Xperia XZ2 Dual SIM (H8266)
  38. Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium (US version)
  39. Sony Xperia XZ3
  40. Vodafone Smart N9
  41. Xiaomi Mi A2
  42. Xiaomi Mi A2 (32GB)

Devices unlocked with a photo, but with better security

The following devices were unlocked in our test with a photo, but you can set face recognition to be ‘stricter’. 

  1. Honor 7A
  2. LG G7 thinQ
  3. LG G7 thinQ (US version)
  4. LG G7 thinQ Dual SIM
  5. LG V35 ThinQ (US version)
  6. LG V40 ThinQ

Devices that can not be unlocked with a photo

The following devices could not be unlocked with a photo in our test.

  1. Alcatel 3V (5099D)
  2. Alcatel 5
  3. Apple iPhone XR (128 GB)
  4. Apple iPhone XR (256 GB)
  5. Apple iPhone XR (64 GB)
  6. Apple iPhone XS (256GB)
  7. Apple iPhone XS (512GB)
  8. Apple iPhone XS (64GB)
  9. Apple iPhone XS Max (256GB)
  10. Apple iPhone XS Max (512GB)
  11. Apple iPhone XS Max (64GB)
  12. Asus Zenfone Max Plus (ZB570TL)
  13. Honor 10
  14. Honor 7C
  15. Honor 8X
  16. Honor View 10
  17. HTC U12 + (EU version)
  18. HTC U12 + (US version) Huawei P Smart +
  19. Huawei Y6 (2018) (ATU-L21)
  20. Huawei Y7 (2018)
  21. Huawei Mate 20
  22. Huawei Mate 20 Lite
  23. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  24. Lenovo Motorola Moto G6 (32GB)
  25. Lenovo Motorola Moto G6 (64GB)
  26. Lenovo Motorola Moto G6 (US version)
  27. Lenovo Motorola Moto G6 Plus
  28. Lenovo Motorola Moto Z3 .US version
  29. Lenovo Motorola Moto Z3 Play
  30. Lenovo Motorola Moto Z3 Play .US version
  31. Motorola Moto G6 (BR version)
  32. Motorola Moto G6 Plus (BR version)
  33. One Plus 5T
  34. OnePlus 6 (128GB)
  35. OnePlus 6 (256GB)
  36. OnePlus 6 (64GB)
  37. OnePlus 6 (US version) (64 GB)
  38. Oppo Find X
  39. Samsung Galaxy A6 (32GB)
  40. Samsung Galaxy A6 + (32GB)
  41. Samsung Galaxy A6 + (64 GB)
  42. Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018)
  43. Samsung Galaxy J6 (2018)
  44. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (128 GB) (EU version)
  45. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (128 GB) Dual SIM (BR version)
  46. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (128 GB) Single SIM (EU version)
  47. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 SM-N960U1 (US version)
  48. Samsung Galaxy S9 (SM-G960F / DS)
  49. Samsung Galaxy S9 SM-G960U1 (US model)
  50. Samsung Galaxy S9 256GB
  51. Samsung Galaxy S9 dual (128GB)
  52. Samsung Galaxy S9 + (SM-G965F / DS)
  53. Samsung Galaxy S9 + 256GB
  54. Samsung Galaxy S9 + dual (128GB)
  55. Samsung Galaxy S9 + Single SIM
  56. Samsung Galaxy S9 + SM-G965U1 (US model)
  57. WIKO View 2