This week, Apple released the first developer and public beta versions of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, which led to a major change in the integration between the iPhone and Apple Watch. For the first time, you can now use the Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone when using a face mask. This is how it works.
There are few things worth noting right outside the bat. First of all, this requires the latest developer or public beta versions of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4. If you do not want to jump on the beta bandwagon, we expect iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 to be released to the public sometime in the coming months.
Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch
To enable the Unlock feature with Apple Watch, open the Settings app on your iPhone and look for the “Face ID & Passcode”
- Face ID detects a mask
- Apple Watch is nearby
- The Apple Watch is on your wrist
- Apple Watch is unlocked
- Apple Watch has a password enabled
Another thing to keep in mind here is that if you disable the Apple Watch wrist detection feature, you will not be able to unlock your iPhone with the Apple Watch.
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After activating the feature, the iPhone automatically unlocks with the Apple Watch the next time you wear a face mask. When the iPhone is unlocked, you will receive a haptic feedback alert on the Apple Watch telling you that the iPhone was unlocked by the Apple Watch. It is also possible to quickly “Lock iPhone” directly from that Apple Watch alert.
The feature is similar to how the Apple Watch unlock feature works on a Mac, but it seems to be both faster and more reliable in my early tests. On the Mac, the Apple Watch can be used for a variety of authentication tasks, including accessing controls in System Preferences, making Apple Pay purchases, and more.
On the iPhone, unlocking the Apple Watch is limited to unlocking the iPhone while using your mask. It does not work if the iPhone can not detect if you are wearing a mask, and it does not work for things like Apple Pay, auto-filling credit cards in Safari, or accessing Apple Card features in the Wallet app. In such cases, you still need to enter your password if you use a mask.
The “Lock iPhone” button is an important security step, as it allows you to re-lock the iPhone if it should be unlocked by someone else wearing a face mask. This feature does not appear to be searching for your face at all. Instead, it’s just looking for a face mask, and when it detects a face mask – whether it’s on you or someone else – it will use proximity to unlock with the Apple Watch.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind here that the Unlock with Apple Watch feature is not as secure as unlocking with Face or a password, but it is far more convenient.
Despite the limitations, support for unlocking the iPhone with the Apple Watch while wearing a mask is a big change in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you think about the feature? Let us know in the comments!
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