How To: Unlock Your iPhone Without Taking Off Your Mask for Face ID or Using a Passcode

Unlock Your iPhone Without Taking Off Your Mask for Face ID or Using a Passcode

One of the smaller frustrations of the coronavirus pandemic is unlocking your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask. If you have an iPhone with Touch ID, you won't need to punch in your passcode every time Face ID fails since you can use your fingerprint. But for those of us without Home buttons, unlocking our iPhones just got a lot easier — even if we're wearing a mask.

The only requirements? You need iOS 14.5 and an Apple Watch with watchOS 7.4. With these, you can unlock your iPhone with both your face and your Apple Watch. When you wake your iPhone, it will still attempt to scan your face. If it detects that you're wearing a mask, it defers to your Apple Watch. As long as your watch is in range and unlocked, your iPhone will open up.

This new feature is a great step for those of us entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. If that applies to you, you should take full advantage and consider changing your numeric passcode to an alphanumeric password. That way, you can give your iPhone the same level of security you give, say, your Mac, all while avoiding plugging in a long and complex password every time Face ID fails.

Previously, the only way to unlock your iPhone without taking off your mask or entering a passcode was to jailbreak and install a tweak like IntelligentPass, which acts similar to Google's Smart Lock feature on Android, where your iPhone will unlock itself in certain situations. For example, when connected to a specific Wi-Fi network or during a specific time of day.

Step 1: Update Your iPhone to iOS 14.5 or Later

To enable this feature, your iPhone needs to be running iOS 14.5. That version of iOS isn't available to the general public yet and is currently going through beta testing. If you want to try the feature out for yourself, you'll need to download and install the 14.5 beta on your iPhone.

Step 2: Update Your Apple Watch to watchOS 7.4 or Later

Your Apple Watch will also need to be updated to at least watchOS 7.4 for this feature to work. Right now, you'll need to download and install the watchOS 7.4 beta if you want to try this out for yourself. If you don't have an Apple Watch, this is a good reason to get one, and Amazon usually has good deals:

Step 3: Enable the Feature

On your iPhone, head over to Settings –> Face ID & Passcode, then enter your passcode. Scroll down and tap the switch next to "Apple Watch" under Unlock with Apple Watch. Then, just give iOS a moment to load, and presto! Now, your Apple Watch can — and will — unlock your iPhone while you're wearing a mask.

Image by 9to5Mac/YouTube

When you unlock your iPhone, you'll get a notification on your Apple Watch as well, just as you do when unlocking your Mac with your watch. This notification can actually be quite useful, as you can see below.

Temporarily Disable Your Apple Watch from Unlocking Your iPhone

One neat backstop Apple put into this feature is the ability to disable your Apple Watch from unlocking your iPhone temporarily. It allows you to quickly force your iPhone to only accept Face ID or your passcode the next time it unlocks — without disabling Apple Watch unlocking altogether.

You can do this from the Apple Watch notification that appears when unlocking your iPhone. Just tap the "Lock iPhone" button on your watch, and your iPhone will require Face ID or your passcode the next time you unlock your device. Once you do use Face ID or enter your passcode, this block resets, and your Apple Watch will be able to unlock your iPhone again.

Image by 9to5Mac/YouTube

But What About Touch ID Models?

OK, so you don't have the problem of masks obfuscating your facial features for Face ID, but you do have another problem: gloves. In the winter, when it's super cold out, you're likely wearing gloves. Even if you have a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves, you won't be able to use Touch ID to unlock your iPhone unless you take a glove off.

It's unlikely Apple will add a similar feature for this dilemma since Touch ID would need to be able to detect that you're trying to use it. But Touch ID would not know when your wearing gloves. If there could be a way to detect that, there would likely be many unintentional unlocks whenever your iPhone's in your pocket.

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Cover photo by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks

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