As we are still in the middle of a pandemic, wearing a face mask is still required at all public spaces. If you’re using the latest iPhone 12 or past models that uses Face ID, you’ll know that facial recognition won’t work when half of your face is covered with a mask.
On iOS 13.5, Apple had released an interim solution by speeding up the passcode request process but it is still far from ideal. iPhone users would still need to key in their passcode which not only is cumbersome but there’s a risk of exposing your pin to strangers. Thankfully, Apple is finally rolling out a much better solution but it will require an Apple Watch.
It appears that the upcoming iOS 14.5 update will bring a new “Unlock with Apple Watch” feature which can be found under the Face ID settings. This will allow you to bypass the annoying passcode request if you have an Apple Watch on your wrist.
To get this to work, your iPhone needs to be running on iOS 14.5 while your Apple Watch is on watchOS 7.4. Obviously, the Apple Watch must have passcode enabled and it needs to be unlocked when it’s on your wrist.
Once you’ve enabled the feature, the iPhone will check if you’ve an Apple Watch nearby when Face ID sees a mask. If the Watch is on your wrist and has been authenticated, it will unlock the iPhone for you. This is similar to Apple’s current feature which allows you to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch.
For better security, it appears that the feature would only work within a close range and if you’re too far, it will tell you to move it closer. To ensure that you’re aware that your iPhone is unlocked, the Apple Watch will also give you a haptic feedback and notification. According to MacRumors, the unlocking process has a slight delay but it is still definitely better than manually entering your 6-digit passcode.
At the moment, the feature seems to be used only for unlocking purposes and the device will still require Face ID authentication for Apple Pay and App Store purchases. The Unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch feature will not work if you’ve disabled the Apple Watch’s wrist detection, a feature which automatically locks your watch when you take it off.
Overall, this is good news for those using the iPhone X, XR and above. However, you’ll need an Apple Watch that supports watchOS 7 and this means it would only work on Apple Watch Series 3 and above.