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Apr 12, 2001
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iOS 14.5 is now available, and a key new feature is the ability to unlock an iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask, so long as you are wearing an Apple Watch. Read on to learn how this feature works.

FaceID-Masked-Blue-copy.jpg

Apple introduced its Face ID facial recognition system in November 2017 with the launch of the iPhone X, offering users an even simpler way to unlock their smartphone than traditional fingerprint recognition.

Following the now-mainstream usage of face masks, however, Apple's biometric feature has been handicapped, leaving many users having to enter their passcode to unlock their device when in public spaces.

Fortunately, Apple has responded to this change in our everyday lives by introducing a new feature that allows iPhone users wearing an Apple Watch to unlock their smartphone via Face ID through a partial face scan, when they're wearing a mask.

The process is similar to how it works when unlocking a Mac with an Apple Watch. When the unlock happens, the user receives a haptic buzz and a notification on the Apple Watch informing them that the unlocking procedure has been successful. However, bear in mind that you can only use your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask – it can't be used for authenticating Apple Pay or App Store purchases.

Before you can take advantage of the new feature, you'll need to make sure that you're running iOS 14.5 on your iPhone and watchOS 7.4 on your Apple Watch. You can update your iPhone by going to Settings -> General -> Software Update. To update your Apple Watch after installing iOS 14.5, launch the Watch app on your iPhone, tap the My Watch tab at the bottom of the screen, then select General -> Software Update.

What You'll Need

  • iPhone X or later with Face ID
  • Apple Watch Series 3 or later
  • iOS 14.5 or later installed on iPhone
  • watchOS 7.4 or later installed on Apple Watch

How to Set Up Unlock iPhone With Apple Watch

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Select Face ID & Passcode.
  3. Enter your iPhone's passcode.
    Scroll down to the section labeled "Unlock With Apple Watch" and toggle the switch next to Apple Watch to the green ON position. (If the option is greyed out, you need to update the version of watchOS on your Apple Watch.)
    unlock-iphone-with-apple-watch-e1612352290324.jpg

How to Unlock Your iPhone With Apple Watch

To use your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone, your watch needs to be nearby, on your wrist, unlocked, and protected by a passcode. If you haven't set up a passcode yet, launch the Watch app on your iPhone, select Passcode -> Turn Passcode On, then enter the passcode you want to use (you'll have to do so twice to confirm.)

unlock-iphone-apple-watch.jpg

The first time you attempt to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch when wearing a mask, your iPhone will ask you to enter your passcode. Once you've done that, all subsequent attempts to unlock your iPhone when wearing a mask will be swift and seamless, with each successful unlock accompanied by a short haptic buzz on your wrist. You'll need to re-enter your passcode if you remove your watch and the first time you set it up each day.

Article Link: iOS 14.5: How to Mask Unlock Your iPhone With Apple Watch
 
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Toratek

macrumors 6502
Oct 10, 2019
277
474
The very best feature of this, for me, is that it works with a full-face motorcycle helmet. That makes long-term value of the feature really relevant to me- because sooner or later we won’t be wearing masks anymore, if sanity prevails at the current vaccination rate (at least in the USA).

Before this I would have to either remove my armored gloves and punch in the code, or remove my helmet and balaclava. This is MUCH better.
 
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jader201

macrumors newbie
Jun 18, 2009
19
55
Apple really botched the release of this feature.

Rather than getting it in the hands of people ASAP when we needed it most, they coupled it with one of their largest privacy updates in ages, forcing this to get delayed for months. They should’ve split this out as a separate release and pushed it as quickly as they could.

By now, people are getting vaccinated (yay!) and some states are even no longer requiring masks (and many could be following shortly, if the case numbers continue to decline).

Thanks, but you’re a little late.
 

TheMountainLife

macrumors regular
May 24, 2015
119
92
Man, I wish this would work with other Bluetooth accessories, like my Garmin watch. Just moved from Touch ID to Face ID and boy am I glad I had the former for the first year of the pandemic!
I would love to see that as well. My work phone (Samsung) can remain unlocked based on any bluetooth device I set or location. So it in the car and at home its always unlocked.
 

Lemon Olive

Suspended
Nov 30, 2020
1,208
1,320
The first time you attempt to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch when wearing a mask, your iPhone will ask you to enter your passcode. Once you've done that, all subsequent attempts to unlock your iPhone when wearing a mask will be swift and seamless, with each successful unlock accompanied by a short haptic buzz on your wrist. You'll need to re-enter your passcode if you remove your watch and the first time you set it up each day.

Article Link: How to Unlock Your iPhone With Your Apple Watch When Wearing a Mask
Good grief could they make this feature any more worthless?

This shouldn't even require mask detection. This should just be an option, period.
 

axcess99

macrumors regular
Jul 1, 2005
109
114
Apple really botched the release of this feature.

Rather than getting it in the hands of people ASAP when we needed it most, they coupled it with one of their largest privacy updates in ages, forcing this to get delayed for months. They should’ve split this out as a separate release and pushed it as quickly as they could.

By now, people are getting vaccinated (yay!) and some states are even no longer requiring masks (and many could be following shortly, if the case numbers continue to decline).

Thanks, but you’re a little late.
Tell that to India. And this is on top of the earlier change last spring that was rolled out very quickly to at least allow for quicker pin unlocking when wearing a mask.
 

deeddawg

macrumors G4
Jun 14, 2010
11,396
5,381
US
Apple really botched the release of this feature.

Rather than getting it in the hands of people ASAP when we needed it most, they coupled it with one of their largest privacy updates in ages, forcing this to get delayed for months. They should’ve split this out as a separate release and pushed it as quickly as they could.

By now, people are getting vaccinated (yay!) and some states are even no longer requiring masks (and many could be following shortly, if the case numbers continue to decline).

Thanks, but you’re a little late.

Agreed. This would've been a great feature to have out weeks (if not months) ago. It should have been fast tracked.

Maybe there was some reason they weren't able to do so, but it's unclear why that might've been the case.

Still, it'll be a help for a lot of folks for a while yet -- not every place is seeing continued drops in case numbers like we have here in GA even with the state having mostly opened up. India is having a rough time of it, though the market penetration of iphones/watches is rather a good bit less there than we find in the US or perhaps EU. (basing this on past conversations with Indian colleagues)
 
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sean+mac

macrumors member
Aug 13, 2020
77
108
Canada
By now, people are getting vaccinated (yay!) and some states are even no longer requiring masks (and many could be following shortly, if the case numbers continue to decline).
Agree with the sentiment – this should have been unbundled from the rest and shipped much sooner.

But still better late than never: while things in the USA might be looking rosier, many parts of the world – such as my province in Canada – are seeing a very strong third wave of cases right now thanks to the proliferation of variants (among other policy factors.) I am sure I don't need to mention India as a prime example of how bad things still are. Even with vaccines, the risk of variants spreading amongst the unvaccinated portion of the population might be enough to still encourage mask wearing in various "hot zones" even in more highly vaccinated countries for quite some time.

Speaking again of other countries: most countries aren't nearly as far along in vaccinations as the USA and still have a long road ahead. In Canada we're at ~29% of the country's population having a first dose (and under 3% fully vaccinated), which is on the higher side of the G7 but nowhere near as far along as US/UK and are still getting out butts kicked.

Other places in the world also have a cultural acceptance of mask wearing (when feeling sick or because of air quality) so I imagine this convenience feature will be be appreciated for years to come.

So ... better late than never, but Apple certainly could have done better here. Stay safe everyone!
 

Christopher Kim

macrumors 6502
Nov 18, 2016
379
346
Man, I wish this would work with other Bluetooth accessories, like my Garmin watch. Just moved from Touch ID to Face ID and boy am I glad I had the former for the first year of the pandemic!
I'm pretty sure Apple will never allow this given security concerns. If they open it up to allowing other non-Apple Watch BT accessories, could more easily be hacked, less secure, etc.

This is really just an overdue feature for those who already have Apple Watches (or another reason to get an AW), given the similar Mac login feature.

I echo many others wishing this feature was allowed months ago, in 2020, but agree it's still better late than never and will still prove handy going forward.
 
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