iOS 14.5: Face ID now unlocks your iPhone with a mask. But there’s a catch

Unlocking your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a face mask or other face covering is an exercise in frustration. Instead of your iPhone unlocking as soon as the screen lights up, you’re instantly asked to enter your PIN code. It’s incredibly annoying.

Apple has a workaround for its facial recognition quandary, and it’s included in iOS 14.5. With it, you’ll be able to unlock your iPhone instantly, therefore avoiding having to type in your pin each time you want access, or taking off your mask and putting it on again. The iOS 14.5 update is currently in beta, but with an Apple event taking place on April 20, it’s safe to assume the update is getting closer to a public release. (You can sign up for the public beta if you don’t want to wait a minute longer.)

There’s a catch, however: You have to have an Apple Watch. That’s right, Apple borrowed the Apple Watch unlock feature for Mac users, and brought it to the iPhone. Below I’ll walk you through how to set up the new feature, and even show you how it works.

Turn on Unlock with Apple Watch

Once your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 and your Apple Watch has WatchOS 7.4 installed, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps. 

Open the Settings app on your iPhone and then select Face ID & Passcode, enter your PIN when asked. Next, scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. The name of your Apple Watch should be listed there. Next to it is a toggle to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app. 

How you’ll use the new unlock feature

Going forward, whenever you’re wearing a face covering, all you have to do is hold your phone up like you normally would to unlock it with Face ID. You’ll feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch was used to unlock your phone. 

The alert on your watch is more than just an acknowledgment that your phone was unlocked, though. It includes a button to lock your phone, in case it was unlocked by someone else. It’s a security feature to ensure that someone else doesn’t pick up your phone and unlock it while wearing a mask. While unlikely that it will happen, it’s a reassuring fallback method to keep your data safe.

Unlock with Apple Watch is one of many new features in iOS 14. Improvements include plenty of hidden features, along with new privacy features and the ability to create custom app icons.