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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Apple today released watchOS 7.4, the fourth major update to the watchOS 7 operating system that was released in September 2020. watchOS 7.4 comes three months after watchOS 7.3, an update that introduced a new watch face, a Time to Walk feature, and expanded ECG availability.


‌‌The watchOS 7.4 update‌‌ can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General > Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the ‌‌‌‌‌‌iPhone‌‌‌‌‌‌.

Paired with iOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4 brings a new "Unlock with Apple Watch" feature that lets an iPhone with Face ID use an unlocked and authenticated Apple Watch as a secondary authentication measure when you're wearing a mask, alleviating the need to enter a passcode to unlock the iPhone.


Because Face ID does not work when wearing a mask, it can be a hassle to use an iPhone with a mask on. The new Apple Watch feature provides an easy but still secure way to access the iPhone without hassling with a passcode. It's almost identical to unlocking on Mac and can be enabled in the Settings app under Face ID & Passcode.

An unlocked Apple Watch paired with Face ID can unlock the iPhone when a mask is worn, but the entire face cannot be covered and the eyes still need to be visible. Apple Watch mask authentication can't be used for Apple Pay or App Store purchases, nor can it be used to unlock apps that require a Face ID scan. In these situations, the mask will need to be removed or a passcode/password will need to be used instead.


When the Apple Watch unlocks the iPhone, you'll feel a haptic tap on the wrist and will receive a notification on the watch to let you know when your iPhone has been unlocked, similar to how it works when using the watch to unlock a Mac. There is a proximity feature as well, to ensure that you must be near your iPhone for it to unlock with the Apple Watch.

For Apple Fitness+ users, the watchOS 7.4 update enables AirPlay 2 for Apple Fitness+, so workouts can be streamed to an AirPlay 2-enabled TV or set-top box. Apple Watch metrics do not show up on the screen when AirPlayed, however, and that feature is limited to iPhone/iPad/Apple TV.

watchOS 7.4 introduces an option to choose a Bluetooth device type in settings to correctly identify audio notifications, and it introduces ECG support and irregular heart rhythm notifications in Australia and Vietnam. Apple's full release notes with additional features are listed below:
watchOS 7.4 includes new features, improvements, and bug fixes, including:

- Ability to unlock your iPhone X and later with Apple Watch when you attempt to use Face ID while wearing a face mask
- Option to classify Bluetooth device type in Settings for correct identification of headphones for audio notifications
- Ability to stream audio and video content from Apple Fitness+ workouts to AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and devices
- Support for the ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 or later in Australia and Vietnam
- Support for irregular heart rhythm notifications in Australia and Vietnam
More information on the watchOS 7 operating system that runs on modern Apple Watch models can be found in our watchOS 7 roundup.

Article Link: Apple Releases watchOS 7.4 With iPhone Unlocking, Apple Fitness+ AirPlay 2 Support
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macrumors member
Jun 4, 2009
Is there a way to make Watch updates download faster? My Series 3 always takes several hours to download an update from the phone. I've seen workarounds in the past, but not sure if they still work. Did Apple fix this in newer watch models?
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macrumors demi-god
Aug 28, 2015
Mine says WatchOS 7.5. Anyone else?
Probably have a beta profile installed? Apple is already testing next release of 14.6 and I assume there's a beta of it for wOS that would be numbered 7.5.

Or your eyes are failing you.


macrumors 603
Mar 30, 2004
I am getting "Unable to Check for Update: An error occurred while checking for a software update." error. Perhaps I need to update iPhone to 14.5 first (it is currently being updated)? If so, the error message should be more informative.
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Oct 21, 2020
Ah yes - it takes some 45 minutes to download (for whatever reason), and then it cannot verify the update. Time to start all over again.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised there are issues, considering Apple still can't get app auto-updates to work.
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macrumors regular
Oct 29, 2008
Time to wipe and reset my watch again :( Series 3 doesn't have room for updates
Same here. I guess this will be one of the last updates I’ll install on Series 3 anyway as unpairing and resetting it twice to install an update is a hassle so I’ve been mostly skipping minor updates. I guess support for S3 will be dropped with watchOS 8.
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macrumors 6502a
Oct 18, 2018
The Netherlands

Makes me wonder if the Series 3 will even get watchOS 8.
Same here. I guess this will be one of the last updates I’ll install on Series 3 anyway as unpairing and resetting it twice to install an update is a hassle so I’ve been mostly skipping minor updates. I guess support for S3 will be dropped with watchOS 8.

The weird thing is, I very much do believe that Apple will give the Series 3 an update to WatchOS 8. For the simple reason that they still sell the Series 3 as a budget option (that no one should buy).


macrumors 68020
Apr 15, 2004
Washington DC
Yikes ya - the requirement to unpair and set up as new and then unpair and re-setup from backup is a painful process for us Apple Watch 3 folks.

Wouldn't bother but I want the mask unlock feature badly.


macrumors 65816
Jun 29, 2020
San Jose, CA
I get the checking for update but it won't let me install it yet. Based on some of the things from this thread, maybe I won't install the watch update until tonight after I close all my rings. I wish they would allow you to update the watch while you are actually wearing the watch.


macrumors 6502
Nov 1, 2017
I updated the phone, then the watch, and I noticed something. I unlocked my phone with a mask on, then I hit "Lock iPhone" on my watch. The next time I swiped up on the iPhone to unlock it (without a mask on), the phone asked for my passcode. I wonder if hitting "Lock iPhone" temporarily disables FaceID? I'll keep playing with it.


macrumors 601
Sep 19, 2012
After update, was running into issues with macOS watch unlock on MBP16,1 and iMac19,1. Both are on Catalina. Security update installed (10.15.7 19H1030) then full shutdown, then watch and iPhone shutdown was only resolution. Have not run into that previously.
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