Due to the Coronavirus, wearing a mask is becoming more popular around the world, with masks being required at indoor venues in the UK. However, wearing a mask has one drawback: users wearing masks are having trouble unlocking their iPhones. Aside from painful ears from the loops, wearing a mask makes it tough to unlock your iPhone using Face ID. From the iPhone X onwards, this is a concern for all iPhone users, as the latest versions rely on facial identification rather than fingerprint recognition (not that fingerprint recognition is easy if you are wearing gloves as some choose to do when shopping).

Users were allowed to rapidly slide upwards on the iPhone to disregard the requirement for Face ID and instead unlock using the passcode after an iOS update (iOS 13.5) released in April 2020, but the irritation of using Face ID with a mask has not gone away… until now.

If you don’t want to input your passcode every time you need to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask, iOS 14.5 added a new feature that allows you to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. You’ll only need an Apple Watch running watchOS 7.4 to participate.

Below, we’ll walk you through the steps to set up iPhone unlocking with your Apple Watch. If you don’t have an Apple Watch and want to unlock your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask, we’ll go over your alternatives.

Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch

This is an iOS 14.5 feature that allows you to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask and using an Apple Watch.

What You’ll Require

  • First, you’ll need an Apple Watch to use the new unlocked iPhone with Apple Watch feature. WatchOS 7.4 must be installed on the device (which launched on 26 April).
  • The Apple Watch must be unlocked and worn on your wrist.
  • In addition, your iPhone must be protected by a passcode (if you don’t have one, go to Settings > Passcode > Turn Passcode on).
  • You must also have Wrist Detection enabled.
  • iOS 14.5 must be installed on your iPhone.

How to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch

On your iPhone, you must enable the Unlock with Apple Watch option.

  • Open the Face ID & Passcode Settings app.
  • Enter your security code.
  • Select Unlock with Apple Watch from the menu.
  • If your Watch is out of date, you’ll receive a message that says “Software Update Required.”

When you try to unlock your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask on your face, your iPhone will open automatically if your Watch is on your wrist and unlocked. Your Watch will display a message informing you that your iPhone has been unlocked and that you can lock it again. As long as you have a Watch, you can use this new feature. However, there are a few other drawbacks. If you were expecting that you wouldn’t have to input your passcode to use Apple Pay in stores, you’ll be disappointed: while this approach will unlock your iPhone, there are certain restrictions on what you can do with it in that condition, one of which is that you won’t be able to use Apple Pay. Of course, if you’re wearing an Apple Watch, the logical thing to do is pay with Apple Pay. You won’t be able to access apps that should be safely unlocked, such as your banking app, if you unlock your iPhone this way. In such a situation, you’ll have to use an unmasked Face ID or enter your passcode.

All of this is fantastic if you have an Apple Watch, but what if you don’t have one and need to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask?

Turn off Face ID

One solution is to disable Face ID as a method of unlocking your iPhone.

  • Go to Face ID & Passcode in Settings, enter your password and deselect the sliders next to the iPhone Unlock and other choices.

Every time you need to unlock your iPhone or identify yourself for Apple Pay, for example, you’ll need to enter a passcode.

You can also set your iPhone to unlock with a mask on by setting it up with a face ID wearing a half mask. Wearing a mask isn’t a habit you should quit but you can certainly find alternatives to unlock your iPhone.