And it also shows off the power of the Apple Watch
Many users of iPhones X through the most recent 12 have had to get used to Face ID being rendered virtually useless by the COVID-19 pandemic while out and about. Some other smartphone manufacturers have relaxed security and given users the ability to work around wearing a mask in public, but that’s just not Apple’s style.
However, while they still aren’t allowing Face ID to work alone if there’s a mask in the way, Apple is now rolling out a compromise solution in the latest iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7 Betas, and it’s a good one. If enabled, this new Unlock With Apple Watch feature will allow users to bypass Face ID as long as they are wearing an Apple Watch.
Much like the existing Apple Watch feature that allows Mac users to unlock their computers, as long as the user’s Watch is being worn, powered, paired, and unlocked via passcode, this new feature will unlock an iPhone when a mask is detected by Face ID. Wrist detection also has to be enabled for Unlock With Apple Watch to work.
This is a solid compromise for someone like myself. The places I am working right now all have strict mask mandates, to the point where you will likely be asked to leave if caught without one. I use my iPhone a ton at work, so going back to the old school passcode has certainly been a step backwards during business hours over the last 11 months. However, this new feature allows users to retain device security without extra complication.
I also love the fact that, once the mask comes off, Face ID is automatically back on the job. In my opinion, convenience is the biggest key to security. If it’s made to be too inconvenient, most users will just disable security measures, which is not a good thing. By developing a convenient solution to work around wearing masks, Apple has ensured that more devices, along with all that important private user data stored on them, will remain secure.
If you are running the latest iOS and watchOS Betas, you can check Unlock With Apple Watch out, too. Just go to Settings-Face ID & Passcode and turn on Unlock With Apple Watch for your device.
I actually had a little trouble setting this new feature up at first. For whatever reason, I was getting an error message saying that my iPhone wasn’t communicating with my Apple Watch. This was despite that fact that I confirmed my Watch was connected via Bluetooth on the iPhone and showed the connected icon on my Watch’s Control Center.
After turning Bluetooth on and off a couple of times and trying to enable Unlock With Apple Watch MANY times, I finally power cycled my Watch. Of course that fixed it. If you run into any issues while trying to enable this new feature, give it a try. Unlock With Apple Watch is still in beta, so there are bound to be some bugs still hanging around.