One of the smaller frustrations of the coronavirus pandemic is unlocking your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask. If you have an iPhone with Touch ID, you don’t have to enter your passcode every time Face ID fails because you can use your fingerprint. But for those of us without Home buttons, unlocking our iPhones has gotten a lot easier, even when we’re wearing a mask.
The only requirements? You need iOS 14.5 and an Apple Watch with watchOS 7.4. It allows you to unlock your iPhone with both your face and your Apple Watch. When you wake up your iPhone, it will still try to scan your face. If it detects that you are wearing a mask, it will ring on your Apple Watch. As long as your watch is in range and unlocked, your iPhone will open.
This new feature is a great step for those of us anchored in the Apple ecosystem. If that applies to you, take full advantage and consider changing your numeric passcode to an alphanumeric password. That way, you can give your iPhone the same level of security as, say, your Mac, while avoiding having to enter a long and complex password every time Face ID fails.
Previously, the only way to unlock your iPhone without taking off your mask or entering a passcode was to jailbreak and install a tweak like IntelligentPass, which is similar to Google̵
Step 1: Update your iPhone to iOS 14.5 or above
To enable this feature, your iPhone must have iOS 14.5. That version of iOS is not yet available to the general public and is currently undergoing beta testing. If you want to try the feature yourself, you will need to download and install the 14.5 beta on your iPhone.
Step 2: Update your Apple Watch to watchOS 7.4 or later
Your Apple Watch must also be updated to at least watchOS 7.4 for this feature to work. At this point, you will need to download and install the watchOS 7.4 beta if you want to try this out for yourself. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, here’s a good reason to get one, and Amazon usually has good deals:
Step 3: Enable the feature
On your iPhone, go to Settings -> Face ID & Passcode and then enter your passcode. Scroll down and tap the switch next to Apple Watch below Unlock with Apple Watch. Then give iOS a moment to load, and presto! Now your Apple Watch can and will unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask.
When you unlock your iPhone, you also receive a notification on your Apple Watch, just like you do when you unlock your Mac with your watch. This notification can actually be quite useful as you can see below.
Temporarily turn off your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone
One handy backstop that Apple has put into this feature is the ability to turn off your Apple Watch to temporarily unlock your iPhone. This allows you to quickly force your iPhone to accept only Face ID or your passcode the next time it is unlocked, without disabling Apple Watch unlock altogether.
You can do this from the Apple Watch notification that appears when you unlock your iPhone. Just tap the “Lock iPhone” button on your watch, and your iPhone will need Face ID or your passcode the next time you unlock your device. Once you use Face ID or enter your passcode, this block will reset and your Apple Watch can unlock your iPhone again.
But what about Touch ID models?
OK, so you don’t have the problem of masks obscuring your facial features for Face ID, but you do have another problem: gloves. In the winter, when it’s super cold outside, you probably wear gloves. Even if you have a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves, you can’t use Touch ID to unlock your iPhone unless you take off a glove.
Apple is unlikely to add a similar feature to this dilemma as Touch ID needs to be able to detect that you’re trying to use it. But Touch ID wouldn’t know when you’re wearing gloves. If there were some way to detect that, there would likely be a lot of accidental unlocks when your iPhone is in your pocket.
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