The still ongoing Covid19 pandemic still requires wearing masks in public. And that’s a real annoyance when Apple’s only biometric technology for unlocking your phone, Face ID, is designed to see your face. This will continue for a while, but it’s not just about FFP2 masks, even in a post-pandemic era many faces will remain covered in winter: Those who live in areas where winter still exists often have the lower part of their face covered. In this case, the potential alternative Touch ID would no longer be one, because you still wear gloves in such cases to boot.
In iOS 15.4 ( in beta testing since last week ) Apple is adding the ability to use Face ID when wearing a mask. This feature is optional, and Apple warns that Face ID is more secure when the whole face is scanned, but it’s a great solution. And this is how it works.
Face ID with a mask in iOS 15.4: Compatible with these devices
Since the iPhone X in 2017, iPhones have Face ID, in the portfolio currently available from Apple, only the iPhone SE has Touch ID. However, Face ID with a mask is not compatible with all iPhones of this type, but limited to iPhones with the A14 Bionic processor or higher, i.e. iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max or iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro or 13 Pro Max.
Face ID with mask in iOS 15.4: Set up
When you update your iPhone to iOS 15.4 turn on for the first time, you will probably be asked whether you want to use Face ID with a mask or not. If it doesn’t, or if you want to set it up later, follow the steps below:
Open the settings
Tap "Face ID& Passcode". You will need to enter your passcode to access this menu.
Scroll down to "Use Face ID with a mask" And turn it on.
After turning it on, you will be asked to go through the Face ID setup process again, positioning your face in the center of the camera and looking around slowly. The iPhone does another scan of your face, this time using more data points from the eye area and upper part of the face, and ignoring the lower part that a mask would cover. During this additional setup process, you don’t have to wear a mask, but the scanner just assumes you have one on.
If you frequently wear glasses when using your iPhone, you’ll be prompted to take them off during the second scanning process. You can also add additional scans for any glasses you wear frequently (sunglasses are used for the Face ID with Mask feature) not yet supported, though). Tap on "Add glasses" and you will be prompted to perform another scan, this time with your glasses on. For best results, repeat this process with all the glasses you normally wear.
Once the feature is set up, Face ID recognizes your face when you try to unlock the iPhone while wearing a mask. The "Face ID with a mask" function Is just an extension of the regular Face ID setup process and there is no discernible difference in speed or reliability. It doesn’t change or restrict how or when Face ID is used, and third-party apps and services don’t have to customize anything to support it. So you can use Face ID with a mask (and/or glasses) every time Face ID is used to unlock your iPhone, enter passwords, use Apple Pay, and more.
Use Apple Watch to unlock
In iOS 14.5, Apple added the ability to automatically unlock your iPhone when you’re wearing the Apple Watch paired with it and the watch is unlocked.
We have instructions on how to set up unlocking with the Apple Watch – it’s a separate setting in Face ID& Passcode". Please note that this is only a method to unlock your iPhone, not to authenticate apps, auto-fill forms or passwords, make payments or for any other purpose.
This article originally appeared in our sister publication "Macworld" .