You Can Finally Use Face ID Without Removing Your Mask

You Can Finally Use Face ID Without Removing Your Mask
Photo: PeskyMonkey, Shutterstock

Face ID is a great iPhone feature — when your iPhone can see your face, that is. While wearing a mask helps protect you and those around you from COVID, it also blocks you from unlocking your phone with your face. Apple added a workaround to this problem for those of us with Apple Watches, but what about those of us who don’t own the company’s smartwatch?

No longer do you need to own a pricey Apple Watch on top of a pricey iPhone just to quickly text your friend back while wearing a mask. Apple now lets you unlock your iPhone with a face covering, as long as two conditions are met.

The first is you have an iPhone 12 or newer. That includes iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. Any iPhone older than that, meaning iPhone 11 and earlier, does not support this new Face ID mask feature. Of course, you can always take advantage of the feature if you have an Apple Watch, though.

The second requirement is iOS 15.4. This update introduces a few new features to iPhone, including this Face ID upgrade and more than 30 new emoji. That said, the update isn’t out yet. In order to install iOS 15.4 on your iPhone, and, subsequently, gain access to mask-supported Face ID, you’ll need to enroll your iPhone in the iOS 15.4 beta. We have a full guide on how to do that here.

How to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask

So, your iPhone is now updated to iOS 15.4. When it boots back up, look for the automatic splash screen that appears, asking if you want to set up Face ID with a mask. Agree to that pop-up, then follow the on-screen instructions to scan your face again. Note: If you wear glasses, you will need to do additional face scans for each pair of glasses you wear, in order for the feature to be as accurate as possible.

From here on out, you’ll be able to unlock your iPhone with Face ID whether or not you’re wearing a mask. However, you should know this feature makes Face ID less secure than before. Apple doesn’t specify how much this option compromises Face ID security (the feature has a one-in-a-million chance of failing normally), but it’s worth knowing about before you commit to it full-time.

Still, no security method is perfect. I’m happy to take a tiny risk so my iPhone unlocks whenever I look at it again. I suspect most people (at least, most people who still wear masks) feel the same.

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