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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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With the launch of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, Apple introduced a feature that's designed to allow people wearing masks to unlock their iPhones with a paired and authenticated Apple Watch, alleviating the need to continually enter a passcode.

Unlock-With-Apple-Watch-Feature.jpg

Apple has published a support document outlining how the feature works and the requirements that enable it to function. Apple says that the Apple Watch unlocking process is not using Face ID to recognize and authenticate you, so the same facial scan that allows Face ID to unlock your phone isn't happening here.

There are a specific set of requirements that allow the Apple Watch to authenticate your identity for unlocking an iPhone. You'll need an iPhone X or later with iOS 14.5 or later and an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with watchOS 7.4 or later, which must be paired together.

Both WiFi and Bluetooth need to be activated for communication between the iPhone and the Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch needs to have a passcode and wrist detection must be enabled. Unlock with Apple Watch needs to be expressly turned on for it to function, and you can find the feature in Settings > Face ID & Passcode.

For the Apple Watch to authenticate your identity the watch needs to be on your wrist and unlocked, and you need to be wearing a mask that covers both the mouth and the nose, presumably to signal to the iPhone to use the secondary unlocking method rather than Face ID.

To unlock the iPhone with the Apple Watch, you need to wake your iPhone by raising it or tapping the screen, and then glance at it to unlock. The requirement to glance at the iPhone is meant to prevent the feature from working when you're not close by your iPhone, and though not mentioned by Apple, there definitely seems to also be a proximity requirement because it will tell you if you're not close enough to your phone.

This is a feature that can allow someone else that's not you to unlock your iPhone if they're near you, have your iPhone, and are wearing a mask, so enabling it should be done with caution if other people have access to your device and you're worried about security.

It's worth noting that Unlock with Apple Watch only works for unlocking the iPhone. It does not verify identity for use with Apple Pay, passwords in Keychain, or password-protected apps, which will require either Face ID or your passcode.

Though not as secure as Face ID, Unlock with Apple Watch is a convenient option for those who are tired of having to enter a passcode on their devices while wearing a mask.

Article Link: Apple Explains How Unlocking iPhone With Apple Watch Works
 

dojoman

macrumors 68000
Apr 8, 2010
1,785
849
For some reason since beta I have to unlock twice without mask or enter password and then I can unlock with mask on.
 
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Apple_Robert

Contributor
Sep 21, 2012
26,790
32,732
In the middle of several books.
If it has been several hours since I used my phone, the phone will require my passcode before it will unlock with the watch. Don't know if its just me, or if others have experienced the same.

In regards to security, I did add a passcode to Strongbox, in addition to unlock with Face ID. That way, someone can''t get access to my passwords.
 
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jtrenthacker

macrumors regular
Apr 12, 2012
206
612
If it has been several hours since I used my phone, the phone will require my passcode before it will unlock with the watch. Don't know if its just me, or if others have experienced the same.

In regards to security, I did add a passcode to Strongbox, in addition to unlock with Face ID. That way, someone can''t get access to my passwords.
I set mine up yesterday and it worked like a charm. However, just this afternoon, it stopped working. I turned it off and on in settings and still didn't work. I finally restarted my iPhone and it began working again. I hope this is not a trend.
 
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LeadingHeat

macrumors 6502a
Oct 3, 2015
644
1,549
It seems to work flawlessly for me so far! Glad that it’s opt-in, that increases the security of it greatly. It seems to recognize anyone wearing a mask, not just you. (If someone tries to unlock your phone it will, if you have this feature enabled.) You get a haptic feedback tap from your watch, and there’s an option to quickly lock your iPhone again if if wasn’t you. (It then requires the iPhone’s passcode to unlock it after that, Apple Watch unlocking is disabled until the phone is unlocked again).

Overall very well thought through! I’m happy with it and it’s a welcome addition to this crazy time we live in.
 
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Dark_Omen

macrumors regular
Jan 31, 2021
129
110
Kinda stupid how you have to activate it within the settings app. Should've just been automatically turned on when the update went through. Not everyone will even know about this feature because they don't pay attention to tech that much.

This feature doesn't solve much. You still need to use your passcode or password for all of the apps within the phone after you unlock it with the watch.
 
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Worlrl

macrumors newbie
Sep 22, 2020
23
10
Why not just make it happen like with the Mac . Why only iPhones with Face ID and mask on? So stupid
 
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carrrrrlos

macrumors 6502a
Sep 19, 2010
786
1,271
PNW
This works fantastic with motorcycle helmets! If there is anything positive that came out of this virus, it’s this. It has been such a pita riding and having to stop to either remove my helmet or glove to access my iPhone. So happy rn.
 
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alexandr

macrumors 68030
Nov 11, 2005
2,523
4,011
11201-121099
Kinda stupid how you have to activate it within the settings app. Should've just been automatically turned on when the update went through. Not everyone will even know about this feature because they don't pay attention to tech that much.

This feature doesn't solve much. You still need to use your passcode or password for all of the apps within the phone after you unlock it with the watch.
yea, what a major drag — enabling in settings. stupid apple.
 
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Girlsmouth

macrumors member
Jul 31, 2019
97
41
The best part is, once we locked it back with the watch, the phone will require the passcode to unlock even seeing our face without the mask.

Mine doesn’t do this? It unlocks via watch and all apps etc work as well as not having to input the passcode without the mask after
 
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usagora

macrumors 6502a
Nov 17, 2017
603
555
Kinda stupid how you have to activate it within the settings app. Should've just been automatically turned on when the update went through. Not everyone will even know about this feature because they don't pay attention to tech that much.

This feature doesn't solve much. You still need to use your passcode or password for all of the apps within the phone after you unlock it with the watch.

No, it's smart to not have it on by default for security reasons. The user should have to purposely enable anything that could potentially make their phone less secure. If someone really is frustrated by having to enter the passcode when they have a mask on, believe me, they'll google the issue and find the solution easily.

As for not solving much, I guess that depends on what apps you're needing to use while you have a mask on. For me, it's only my banking apps and password app that require Face ID every time I use them. All my other apps store the log-in info.
 
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cjgrif

macrumors member
Oct 25, 2011
57
60
Salisbury, MD
Mine doesn’t do this? It unlocks via watch and all apps etc work as well as not having to input the passcode without the mask after
I think they mean if when your watch alerts you that the phone has been unlocked, and you hit the "Lock Phone" button on your watch, your phone will basically disable all Face ID and require the passcode for the next unlock. I just tested and observed the same behavior.
 
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