2 years ago, it would have been ridiculous to hear about issues unlocking your phone while keeping your mask on. These days, it’s become part of this weird alternate universe situation we are in. Thankfully, in the upcoming iOS update, the problem is about to be solved. But like most good things coming from Apple, it comes at a cost.
In the upcoming iOS 14.5, users can activate a setting that will enable Face ID to work even when the mask stays on… given that you have an unlocked Apple Watch, too. How does it work, you may ask? It’s actually quite simple, really. The Apple Watch can detect whether a person is still wearing the watch or not through a heart-rate sensor. When unlocked, it can remain unlocked because it is aware that the owner has it on. Then, it measures the Bluetooth strength between the Apple Watch and the iPhone to verify that the same person is in possession of both devices. This is also similar to how contact tracing apps work—using Bluetooth strength to measure distance between two people, or in this case, phones. However, even with the Apple Watch, a user still needs to look at the camera to confirm the unlock. Regardless, it is already a good solution for many of us who need to pull down our masks just to unlock our phones.
Wearing face masks became a problem for Apple when they shifted to Face ID from Touch ID. The mask blocked contours underneath it that made it hard for Face ID to completely recognize a person’s features. Around mid-May 2020, Apple tried to remedy that problem by going straight to asking for a passcode when Face ID detects the user is wearing a mask. Now, they’ve come up with a better and more effective solution to the problem. As of now, there is no exact date as to when iOS 14.5 will be released but expect for it to roll out sometime later this month or early March.