Your iPhone will soon unlock faster for face masks. Here’s how it will work – CNET

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With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple will make it easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. 


Patrick Holland/CNET

If you’ve tried to unlock your iPhone using Face ID while wearing a face mask over the last year, you surely know how frustrating it is that it flat-out doesn’t work. Instead of not even thinking about unlocking your phone as you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you’re asked to enter your passcode. Annoying, right? 

Well, there’s good news. Apple has figured out a workaround, but there’s also a catch: You have to have an Apple Watch

Unlock with Apple Watch is a feature that’s included in iOS 14.5, but it’s currently only available as a beta. We don’t expect iOS 14.5 to be released soon, but below you’ll find how to turn on the streamlined unlock process and how to use it. 

Keep in mind that the Unlock with Apple Watch is currently included in beta, which means Apple can and often does make changes to features. We will update this post if that happens. 


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You’ll need to install the beta for now

Until iOS 14.5 is released, you’ll need to take part in the public beta program or have a paid developer account. Paid Apple developers have access to the newest builds, while the public beta program usually receives the same builds a few days later. 

The public beta was made available late Thursday afternoon, so you can enroll your iPhone and Apple Watch by going to apple.com/beta on your iPhone and following Apple’s instructions. 

I recommend taking Apple’s advice and creating a backup of your iPhone before installing the beta. Since it’s a beta, you’re sure to experience bugs and other random issues, like poor battery life. If you need to go back to an official release, in this case iOS 14.4, you’ll need that backup to restore your phone and all the information on it prior to joining the beta. 

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Make sure your watch is nearby when you set up Unlock with Apple Watch. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Turn on Unlock with Apple Watch

Once your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 and your Apple Watch has WatchOS 7.4 installed, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps. 

Open the Settings app on your iPhone and then select Face ID & Passcode. Next, scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. The name of your Apple Watch should be listed there. Next to it is a toggle to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app. 

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Apple’s Face ID tech is cool, but not smart enough to work with a face mask. Well, that’s about to change. 


Angela Lang/CNET

How you’ll use the new unlock feature

Going forward, whenever you’re wearing a face covering, all you have to do is hold your phone up like you normally would to unlock it with Face ID. You’ll feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch was used to unlock your phone. 

The alert on your watch is more than just an acknowledgment that your phone was unlocked, though. It includes a button to lock your phone, in case it was unlocked by someone else. It’s a security feature to ensure someone else doesn’t pick up your phone and unlock it while wearing a mask. While unlikely that it will happen, it’s a reassuring fallback method to keep your data safe.

Unlock with Apple Watch is one of many new features in iOS 14. Improvements include plenty of hidden features, along with new privacy features and the ability to create custom app icons