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Apple just solved your biggest quarantine annoyance

Wearing a mask isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, and Apple may have just solved one of the biggest annoyances of mask-wearing — trying to unlock your iPhone with FaceID. (It goes without saying that mask-wearing is critical to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and the inconvenience of wearing one pales in comparison to the impact of not wearing a mask.) The reason FaceID became so popular is that it’s convenient, fast, and lets you unlock your phone if your hands are carrying items or are otherwise unavailable.

Masks quickly became a problem for those who rely on FaceID rather than entering their passcode constantly throughout the day. Apple finally came up with a way to solve this annoyance, but there’s one catch — you’ve got to own an Apple Watch.

woman wearing face mask
Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

What’s the fix?

The tech giant released the first developer and public betas of iOS 14.5 and WatchOS 7.4, providing a big change to how iPhones and Apple Watches work together. With this update, users can now use their Apple Watch to unlock their iPhone when they’re wearing a face mask.

Users wearing a mask try (and usually fail) to use FaceID to unlock their phone. Once this failure occurs, the Apple Watch will notify a user via vibration (aka haptic feedback) to unlock their iPhone. You then double-click the side button on Apple Watch to unlock your phone.

What’s the catch?

The short answer is: Nothing much. But you do need the latest developer or public betas of iOS 14.5 and WatchOS 7.4. If you’re a beta person, industry experts believe that iOS 14.5 and WatchOS 7.4 will be released to the general public sometime in the next few months.

You also need to meet the following criteria: FaceID must detect a mask, your Apple Watch must be nearby and unlocked (ideally on your wrist), your Apple Watch must have a passcode enabled, and the Apple Watch wrist detection feature must be enabled.

Apple Watch

Why buy an Apple Watch?

Besides being able to answer calls from your wrist like a Bat-phone, Apple Watches allow you to track and share workouts, work on the go, answer important emails if you don’t have access to a laptop or iPhone, get the daily weather, and even be told the time! The latest options for watches and bands are available here.

If you own a Mac, the Apple Watch can be used for a variety of different authentication tasks like accessing controls in System Preferences, making Apple Pay purchases, and more. On the iPhone, well, now you can unlock it while you wear a mask.

person using iPhone

What else will the iOS 14.5 update do?

iOS 14.5 will require apps to ask for user permission before tracking data and activity. It will also add support for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 controllers, bring 5G dual-sim functionality to global users, add Siri enhancements, and let you set Spotify as your default music provider. Oh, and for the really serious iPhone user, the update will give you 217 new emoji, like a syringe, head in the clouds, flaming heart, and new skin tone options to use in your daily text conversations with loved ones. Are we the only ones who go through the updates just for new emoji?

It’s also been rumored (most recently by The Wall Street Journal) that Apple is looking at moving to an in-screen fingerprint reader to complement FaceID for the iPhone 13. The most recent version of the iPad Air also features a Touch ID fingerprint sensor located inside the power button. The bottom line is that it’s a good time to be an Apple user, and the future is looking bright.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that the Unlock with Apple Watch feature is not as secure as unlocking with FaceID or your passcode, but sometimes convenience wins at the end of the day. People are on the move and trying to multitask at a rapid pace in order to meet the demands of work, home, homeschooling, and getting the latest news and health information. Technology is enabling that to happen when we need it the most. If there was ever a time to get an Apple Watch, now may be it!

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