Apple's Face ID facial recognition feature has been available on iPhone and iPad since 2017 and 2018 respectively, so you may have been wondering why it still hasn't appeared on your iMac or MacBook.

The answer, based on all the available evidence, is that Apple is working on it. There will be Face ID-equipped Macs in the nearish future, but they might not be ready in time for a 2021 launch.

In this article we look at the latest clues and leaks and explain when Face ID is likely to land on the Mac.

Is Face ID coming to the Mac?

Apple is almost certainly working on Face ID for Mac: there's just too much evidence to ignore. Of course, many things can go wrong in the development process, as we saw with AirPower - but it would be a major surprise if we didn't see a Face ID Mac in 2021 or (more likely) 2022.

Back in July 2020, for example, eagle-eyed reporters spotted code in a macOS Big Sur beta hinting at the TrueDepth camera - which makes Face ID possible - coming to the Mac. And it logically follows that wherever the TrueDepth camera goes, Face ID follows, giving the Mac the ability to be unlocked using facial recognition, as well as to automatically log on to different sites and services just by looking at the screen.

We've also heard from a Bloomberg report, based on "people with knowledge of the matter", that Apple is working on Face ID for the iMac. Bloomberg reckons this feature won't be ready in time for the 2021 iMac update - "Face ID had originally been planned to arrive in this year's iMac redesign, but it's now unlikely to be included in the first iteration of the new design," the site says - but it's still a long-shot possibility that Apple will manage to ship a different Mac model with Face ID before the end of this year.

When will I be able to use Face ID on Mac?

We expect the first commercially available Macs with Face ID to launch in 2022. Based on Bloomberg's report it seems unlikely that Face ID will be ready for the 2021 iMac update.

But development is well underway, and 2022 - even early 2022 - is perfectly plausible.

Looking through the macOS beta in summer 2020, 9to5Mac spotted references to a 'PearlCamera' - the internal name for the system that was later renamed as the TrueDepth camera. The code also referenced functions such as 'FaceDetect' and 'BioCapture'.

While there are aspects of the code that are identical to iOS, it is clearly programmed for macOS rather than being a case of direct copy-and-paste from iOS via Catalyst. This suggests that the presence of Face ID is not a coincidence or accident.

However, there are some limitations - it doesn't look like Face ID will be possible on an Intel-based Mac. Face ID is one of the new features that the move to Apple Silicon has made possible. The neural engine element of the processor present in iPhones and iPads from the A11 onwards is essential for facial recognition.

This wasn't the first claim that future Macs will support Face ID. In mid-June 2020 Twitter user @blue_kanikama tweeted about the discovery of a system file supporting the theory that Face ID would imminently be available in macOS and even tvOS. Those tweets have since been deleted, though.

And prior to that, in March 2020, details of an Apple patent application that seemed to show Face ID on a Mac were published. That patent application was actually filed in September 2019 and is named "Light Recognition Module for Determining a User of a Computing Device".

When will Face ID come to Mac: Patent activity

Will this improve the FaceTime camera?

Hopefully if the TrueDepth camera arrives on Macs we will also see improved FaceTime cameras, which currently suffer from disappointing resolutions.

If you've been wondering why your FaceTime camera is blurry and fuzzy it's because the resolution is so poor, something we've been calling for Apple to improve.

What is Face ID?

The TrueDepth camera brought Face ID to the iPhone X in 2017. According to Apple, Face ID is more accurate, faster and more secure than Touch ID (although your device is only as secure as the passcode that can override Face ID or Touch ID).

Some Macs can already be unlocked with a fingerprint using Touch ID, a technology that Apple introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5s. Touch ID has been available on the MacBook Pro since 2016 and on the MacBook Air since 2018.

Read about Apple's plans for the coming months in our guide to the new Apple products coming in 2021.