Upcoming iOS Update Unlocks New Mask-Friendly Face ID


Unlocking your iPhone with Apple’s Face ID has required a clear view of your face—until now. Upcoming changes to Apple’s iOS promise enhanced functionality that will recognize users even with their masks on.

The upcoming iOS upgrade is about to make Apple’s biometric authentication vastly more practical in our masked world. Previously, users anticipated the unveiling of this feature alongside the iPhone 11, but reports now indicate its integration with the imminent iOS release.

Developers exploring the first beta of iOS 15.4 stumbled upon a setup screen offering the option to enable Face ID operation with masks, albeit with a potential reduction in security. Interestingly, this setting seems exclusive to the latest Apple hardware.

face id with mask 

Past Apple updates have brought gradual improvements to Face ID under pandemic conditions. iOS 13.5 introduced easier passcode prompts when masked, while iOS 14.5 enabled mask-wearing face unlocking for Apple Watch users. With the new feature, even those without an Apple Watch might enjoy seamless iPhone access.

Understanding Mask-Compatible Face ID

The anticipated iOS 15.4 version is set to introduce an advanced Face ID system that focuses on the eye area for recognition, disregarding the lower half of the face typically hidden by masks.

Unfortunately, the convenience will not be uniform across all devices—only iPhone 12 and later models will support the mask-friendly Face ID. The reason for this limitation remains undisclosed, leaving iPhone X, XR, XS, and 11 users without access to the feature.

As for Apple’s tablet line, neither the 2018 Face ID iPad Pro nor the M1 iPad Pro will benefit from this update, leaving users to rely on previous unlocking methods.

Activating Face ID with a Mask (and Apple Watch)

  1. Update your iPhone to at least iOS 14.5 and your Apple Watch to watchOS 7.4 or newer.
  2. Navigate to Settings > Face ID & Passcode and enable the feature by toggling its switch under ‘Unlock with Apple Watch’.
  3. With these settings, your iPhone will now unlock with your Apple Watch recognition when Face ID detects a mask on your face.

Enabling Face ID With a Mask (Without Apple Watch)

  1. Open the Settings app and select Face ID & Passcode.
  2. Choose ‘Reset Face ID’ or try adding an ‘Alternate Appearance.’
  3. While setting up the recognition, position a folded mask on your face and adjust until the system prompts to complete the head circle motion.
  4. Repeat the face scan with the mask positioned identically to complete the setup.
  5. Test the new setup by wearing your mask and attempting to unlock your device.

Given Apple’s history with iOS updates, it could take a few weeks before all users can take advantage of these new features. For those eager to dive in, joining the public beta could provide early access to mask-compatible Face ID.

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