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Home / Tips and Tricks / iOS 14.5 makes using the iPhone’s Face ID with a mask bearable. But there is a catch

iOS 14.5 makes using the iPhone’s Face ID with a mask bearable. But there is a catch


With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple is making it easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Apple recently held its first event of 2021 where the announced several shiny new products. Outside one new purple color, the iPhone didn’t get much stage time at the Spring Loaded event, but that’s OK: with the release of iOS 14.5 on MondayiPhone gets a handful of new features, including new ones ad tracking permissions, updated Siri voices and the ability to give you iPhone using Face ID while wearing a face mask.

Unlocking the iPhone with Face ID during the pandemic was a frustrating exercise, and with good reason. Instead of your iPhone being unlocked as soon as the screen lights up, you will be prompted to enter your PIN. It slows down the whole process and is incredibly annoying.

After you install iOS 14.5 (here’s how to download it), you can instantly unlock your iPhone, so you don’t have to type in your PIN every time you want access, or take your mask off and put it back on.

Here’s the catch (because there’s always a catch): you’ll need an Apple Watch for this to work. Apple has it Apple Watch unlock feature for Mac users and brought it to iPhone. Below I’ll show you how to set up the new Face ID unlock feature and show you how it works.

Unlock with Apple Watch

Make sure your watch is nearby when you set up Unlock with Apple Watch.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Where to find and turn on Unlock with Apple Watch

Once iOS 14.5 is installed on your iPhone and installed on your Apple Watch WatchOS 7.4, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps.

Open the Settings app on your iPhone, then select Face ID and Passcode, Enter your PIN when prompted. Then scroll down until you find the section with the title Unlock with Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch name should be listed there. Next to it is a switch to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back from the Settings app.

Raise your phone and before you know it, it will be unlocked thanks to your watch.

GIF by Jason Cipriani / CNET

How to use the new unlock feature

In the future, when wearing a face cover, all you need to do is hold up your phone as you normally would to unlock it with Face ID. You will feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch has been used to unlock your phone.

However, the alert on your watch is more than just a confirmation that your phone is unlocked. It includes a button to lock your phone, in case it has been unlocked by someone else. It’s a security feature to make sure someone else doesn’t pick up and unlock your phone while you’re wearing a mask. While this is unlikely to happen, it is a reassuring fallback method to keep your data safe.

Unlocking with Apple Watch is one of many new features in iOS 14.5. Improvements include lots of hidden functions, together with new privacy features and the ability to create custom app icons.

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