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Apple Watch owners will soon be able to unlock their iPhone even if they are wearing a mask

This is an expensive workaround for not typing in your PIN.

apple watch with bluetooth
Image: Unsplash

Mask wearing isn’t going away any time soon, which makes biometric authentication on recent iPhones almost unusable. If you own an Apple Watch, your troubles are over in iOS 14.5 beta, letting you use Face ID to get into your phone without touching the screen.

It’s an extension of the unlock routine that Apple already has for using your Apple Watch to automatically unlock your Mac. Lifting your iPhone turns on the screen, and you’ll get a haptic nudge on your Apple Watch to let you know that your iPhone has been unlocked.

You’ll need your Apple Watch in close proximity to your iPhone for it to work, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re actually wearing it. It also won’t work if your Apple Watch is locked, nor will it work with App Store or iTunes purchases. You’ll still need your pin code to approve those if your face is covered.

This is what it could potentially look like

Apple will also require you to input your passcode every few hours, as another layer of security to ensure your iPhone is only being unlocked by the owner. That’s a nice touch, striking a balance between security and usability.

We’ll have to see how well it works in practice, since the Apple Watch unlock for Mac hasn’t been reliable for some Mac users. With COVID-19 looking to feature in our lives for some time, Apple might go back to including Touch ID as a secondary biometric authentication method, with an in-screen fingerprint reader.

The beta of iOS 14.5 also includes the app transparency controls and pop-ups that Facebook really, really hates, support for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 controllers, some Siri updates, and dual-sim compatibility for 5G users.

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