How to Unlock iPhone With Your Apple Watch When Wearing a Mask

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iOS 14.5 is shaping up to be a major point release of iOS 14 with Apple adding a number of new features and enhancements to the OS. Among other things, iOS 14.5 fixes one of the biggest issues with iPhone X and newer iPhones — Face ID’s inability to work with a mask. Apple is adding an option in iOS 14.5 that will let you use your Apple Watch as a secondary source of authentication in turn allowing you to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people worldwide to wear masks for their own safety and to reduce the transmission of the virus. A side effect of this is that Face ID on iPhones has been rendered useless as it fails to read one’s face properly. This leads to a frustrating user experience as one has to enter their iPhone’s passcode every time while unlocking their device.

Apple is finally getting around to solving the problem at least for iPhone owners who also use an Apple Watch with the upcoming iOS 14.5 update. The OS adds a feature that will unlock your iPhone after a partial Face ID scan provided you are wearing your Apple Watch and it is paired with your iPhone. This is similar to the Unlock with Apple Watch feature that Apple offers for its MacBook lineup.

Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch While Wearing a Mask: Things to Know

  • You must set up a passcode lock on your Apple Watch for this feature to work.
  • Your Apple Watch must be paired and connected to your iPhone for the latter to unlock itself automatically.
  • The first time you use the feature, you’ll have to enter the passcode on your iPhone. After that, your iPhone will unlock automatically provided you are wearing your Apple Watch.
  • Your Apple Watch will give haptic feedback every time your iPhone is unlocked using this process.
  • Make sure your Apple Watch is running watchOS 7.4 otherwise the option will be greyed out.

Set up Passcode Lock on Apple Watch

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.

Step 2: Select the Passcode option and enable it if you have not already done so.

Step 3: Enter passcode to secure your Apple Watch. It is recommended that this passcode be different from the passcode of your iPhone.

How to Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch While Wearing a Mask

Step 1: On your iPhone running iOS 14.5, go to Settings -> Face ID & Passcode. Confirm your identity by entering the passcode.

Step 2: Enable the Unlock with Apple Watch toggle. If the option is greyed out, make sure to update your Apple Watch to watchOS 7.4. You will not see this option on your iPhone if you don’t have an Apple Watch paired to it.

The next time you unlock your iPhone and Face ID is not able to detect your face, you will have to enter the passcode on your device. In all attempts after that, your iPhone will automatically unlock provided your Apple is paired and nearby. Your watch will also vibrate in such a scenario.

Below is a video demonstrating the entire process

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