Wearing a face mask usually makes iPhone Face ID unusable. Even though it appears to be a global issue under the current circumstances, many people, especially medical professionals, would appreciate Face ID on iPhone to work while wearing protective gear. Read on to learn how to use Face ID with a mask.
Update April 27, 2021: There is a new option to unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch when Face ID detects that you are wearing a mask with iOS 14.5.
Learn more about how the feature works and how to install the beta if you want to get the feature before it officially launches to the public.
Researchers at Tencent’s Xuanwu Laboratory (via the the Wall Street newspaper) found that you can often train Face ID to recognize that you are wearing a mask if you set up the biometric system while wearing a half mask.
The tutorial mentions folding a mask in half and the process of setting up Face ID. In our testing, it worked, but not very consistently.
What we found most consistent was to use a half mask for the main Face ID setup as well as redo the alternate look with a half mask on the other side of your face to provide the best results from unlocking.
For its part, Apple told the the Wall Street newspaper:
“ Face ID is designed to work with your eyes, nose and mouth visible, ” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “Users can still unlock their devices while wearing a mask by entering their password.”
But if being able to use Face ID with a mask can help you even if it’s not a 100% unlock rate, try the steps below.
iPhone: How to use Face ID with a mask
With Apple Watch
- Make sure you are running iOS 14.5 on iPhone and watchOS 7.4 on Apple Watch
- On iPhone, go to Settings> Face ID & Passcode
- Swipe down and under Unlock with Apple Watch, tap the toggle next to Apple Watch
- Now when Face ID detects that you are wearing a mask, your iPhone will use Apple Watch to unlock it
- Learn more about installing iOS 14.5 here and learn more about how it works here.
Without Apple Watch
- Head toward Settings > Face ID and access code
- You can either try to do the first step as Alternative appearance or choose to Reset Face ID
- Once you have chosen Configure Face ID or Configure another appearance, fold your mask in half and hold it against your face
- If your iPhone says “Obstructed face”, slowly move your mask away from the center of your face until it asks you to “Slowly move your head to complete the circle” (Xuanwu Lab recommends covering only the tip of your face. nose; cover you will get an error)
- Perform two scans of your face with the mask folded in the same orientation
- You should see “Face ID is now configured”
- Put on your mask, covering your entire face, test if it works to unlock your iPhone
Here’s what those steps look like:
Part 2 (optional)
- If Face ID doesn’t work consistently after setting up Face ID with a folded mask, go back to Settings > Face ID and access code
- Tap Configure another appearance (if you chose an alternative for step 1 above, you will need to reset Face ID and redo part 1 for the main face, and do part 2 as an alternate skin)
- Fold the mask and place it on the other side of your face than you did for part 1
- Perform both Face ID setup scans
- Put on your mask, covering your whole face
- Test if it works
- Face ID should still work when you’re not wearing your mask, too
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