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Sunday, February 25, 2024

How to Unlock Your iPhone With Face ID—While Wearing a Mask

it's been two years since the start of the pandemic, but Face ID on iPhones can finally understand, recognize, and unlock or authenticate when you have a face mask on. Right when mask mandates are lifting around the country. Great. Still, the pandemic isn't over, and wearing a mask in public can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 (you should get vaccinated, boosted, and tested regularly too). Unfortunately, this new Apple feature (enabled via iOS 15.4) is only available for anyone with an iPhone 12 or later

With the feature turned on, you no longer have to take your face mask off for Face ID to work or resort to typing in your PIN. Here, we walk you through how to set it up—and alternate methods for anyone using an older iPhone.

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Make Sure Your iPhone Is Up to Date

The new feature was added to iPhones through the latest operating system version: iOS 15.4. You can go to Settings > General > About to see the exact version your device is running under the Software Version tab. If you're not on the latest software, tap on General in the top left-hand corner and then on Software Update. You should see that iOS 15.4 is available, at which point you can choose Download and Install. Make sure you back up your iPhone before you install the new update.

How to Turn On Face ID With a Mask


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If you already have Face ID set up on your iPhone, enabling the feature will only take a few seconds. Don't have Face ID set up yet? We have instructions here. Once Face ID is set up, follow these steps to turn on Face ID with a Mask:

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Open Settings and tap on Face ID & PasscodeEnter your passcode (if you have one set on your iPhone)Toggle on Face ID with a Mask

You'll be prompted to rescan your face (as you would when setting up standard Face ID). If you scan your face while wearing eyeglasses, you'll be instructed to remove them for a second Face ID scan—don't worry, it'll still recognize you with your glasses on. Then, tap Done and you're all set. 

Speaking of eyeglasses, you can add up to four different pairs. That way, if you have a tendency to switch between different glasses, Face ID will still successfully work while you're wearing a mask. To add new eyeglasses:

Open Face ID & PasscodeTap on Face ID with a MaskSelect Add Glasses

Follow the instructions to scan your face while wearing the glasses you want to add. Then, tap Done and the pair will automatically be saved. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't support sunglasses because the iPhone needs to capture the area around your eyes for authentication, which isn't possible with your favorite shades.

Unlocking Your iPhone With a Face Mask

Face ID with a Mask works the same way as standard Face ID. Whether you're unlocking your iPhone, authorizing an Apple Pay purchase, or downloading and signing in to apps, all you need to do is look directly at the selfie camera on your iPhone. It works well most of the time, though there are instances when it can struggle, just like normal Face ID.

You Can Also Use an Apple Watch

Don't own an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13? There's still hope if you own an Apple Watch. Prior to introducing Face ID with a Mask, Apple offered the option to unlock your iPhone using an Apple Watch (running iOS 14.5 or later and WatchOS 7 or later). It works with the iPhone 6S and later, along with the Apple Watch Series 3 and up. Here's how to enable it:

Open Settings and tap on Face ID & PasscodeScroll down to Unlock With Apple Watch and toggle it onTap Turn On when you receive the pop-up

For the feature to work, you'll have to set up a passcode on the Apple Watch:

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When your Apple Watch is unlocked, you can glance at your iPhone with a mask on and the smartwatch will unlock it. You'll receive a notification on your watch that the iPhone has been unlocked, with the option to lock it again. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't work with Apple Pay, or when signing in to apps. It's purely a convenience for unlocking your phone. 

Neither of these features should be an excuse to upgrade your iPhone (unless you really need to) or shell out for a pricey Apple Watch. You could always snag the new iPhone SE instead—good ol' Touch ID makes it dead simple to unlock or authenticate, masked up or not.


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