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Home / Tips and Tricks / iPhone’s Face Unlock with a mask will work a lot better, but there is of course a catch

iPhone’s Face Unlock with a mask will work a lot better, but there is of course a catch



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

Patrick Holland / CNET

If you’ve tried your iPhone using Face ID while wearing a face mask for the past year, you can be sure how frustrating it is that it doesn’t work at all. Instead of not even thinking about unlocking your phone as you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you’re prompted to enter your passcodeAnnoying right?

Well, there is good news. Apple has came up with a solutionBut there is also a caveat: you must have one Apple Watch

Unlock with Apple Watch is a feature included in iOS 14.5, but it is currently only available in beta. We don’t expect iOS 14.5 to be out anytime soon, but here’s how to enable the streamlined unlocking process and how to use it.

Please note that the Apple Watch unlock is currently included in the beta version, which means that Apple can and often makes changes to features. We will update this post when that happens.


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The beta version of iOS 14.5 shows you how to unlock an iPhone while you …


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You need to install the beta for now

Until iOS 14.5 is released, you must participate in the public beta program or have a paid developer account. Paid Apple developers can access the latest builds, while the public beta program usually receives the same builds a few days later.

The public beta was made available in early February, so you can register your iPhone and Apple Watch by visiting apple.com/beta on your iPhone and following Apple’s instructions.

I recommend taking Apple’s advice and backing up your iPhone before installing the beta. Since it is a beta, you will definitely run into bugs and other random issues like bad battery life. If you need to go back to an official release, in this case iOS 14.4, you will need that backup to restore your phone and all information on it before starting the beta.

Unlock with Apple Watch

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

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

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 & Passcode. Then scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch name should be listed there. Next to it is a switch to turn the function on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app.

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Apple’s Face ID technology is cool, but not smart enough to work with a face mask. Well, that’s about to change.

Angela Lang / CNET

How you will use the new unlock feature

Looking ahead, 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 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 14Enhancements include lots of hidden features along with new privacy features and the ability to create custom app icons


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