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How to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch while wearing a face mask in iOS 14.5

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Unlocking your iPhone while wearing a mask and using long passcodes requires patience. iOS 14.5 tries to fix this issue by allowing authentication via a paired Apple Watch, instead of Face ID.

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Image: CNET

When 2020 started, I’m sure that no one pictured people everywhere needing to wear masks to protect others, but it’s where we’re at in an attempt to get back to normal under COVID-19. As iOS users transition back into offices, many are finding an unintended side effect of mask wearing: the inability to unlock your iPhone or iPad using Face ID. 

This is due to Face ID not being able to see your entire face to verify that it’s you attempting to unlock your device. As a result, Apple has attempted to resolve the issue by adding mask detection to Face ID-enabled devices, which immediately prompts for a passcode when running iOS 13.5 while wearing a mask and attempting to unlock your device.

While there have been Face ID registration hacks to get your iPhone to recognize your face with a mask on, it’s not recommended. It can decrease the security of your iOS devices by either failing to recognize your face, or allowing unauthorized users to access your device.

SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download  (TechRepublic Premium)

As a result of continued mask utilization, Apple is adding a new feature to iOS 14.5 that will let you more easily unlock your iPhone using a paired Apple Watch as the authentication mechanism.

This feature is currently in the iOS 14.5 beta and should be released to the public very soon. In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to enable the feature in either the beta, or once it’s released to the public in iOS 14.5, this spring.

How to get iOS 14.5 beta

If you are a member of the AppleSeed program or the Apple Developer program, you have the ability to get into the latest betas of iOS, and as a result, can get access to the 14.5 beta that includes this feature early.

In addition to iOS 14.5, you’ll need the latest watchOS beta, which is currently at beta watchOS 7.4.

Apple doesn’t have a firm release date for iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, and has not announced it publicly. However, it should be released publicly soon, as iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 is in the later stages of beta testing. 

How to enable Apple Watch unlocking

To allow your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone, the feature must first be enabled on your iPhone. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Select the Face ID & Passcode option.
  3. Enable the toggle for Apple Watch under the Unlock With Apple Watch section (Figure A).
  4. Agree to the details by tapping Turn On.

Figure A 

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Once you’ve enabled the Apple Watch toggle in Face ID & Passcode settings, your paired Apple Watch will be eligible to unlock your iPhone.

How to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch

If you’ve ever enabled the feature on macOS where your Apple Watch can unlock your Mac, then you’ll recognize this feature on iPhone is almost identical to the way it functions. To begin, you’ll need to be wearing your Apple Watch, and ensure that the passcode has been entered and your Apple Watch has been unlocked.

Now, simply swipe up on your iPhone as you’d unlock it normally with Face ID. As long as you’re looking at the device and a portion of your face is visible, then your iPhone will unlock.

As a security measure, your paired Apple Watch will also get a notification that your iPhone has been unlocked, and it will have a notification action button called Lock iPhone (Figure B). Tapping this button on your Apple Watch will immediately lock your iPhone screen, in case you weren’t the one that triggered the unlock from your iPhone.

Figure B 

faceid-applewatch-figure-b.jpg

When unlocking your iPhone with the Apple Watch, your Apple Watch will receive a notification that the device has been unlocked with the Unlock With Apple Watch feature.

A few notes on Apple Watch unlocking:

  • This feature will be used whenever your iPhone detects a mask is on a face.
  • If no mask is detected, then your iPhone will use your normal registered Face ID face to unlock the device.
  • This feature will recognize any face with a mask on and unlock your device, so long as your Apple Watch is unlocked and nearby.
  • Your Apple Watch must be protected by a passcode to use this feature.

Also see

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This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic



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