How to Unlock Your iPhone With Face ID—While Wearing a Mask

You’ll be prompted to rescan your face (as you would when setting up standard Face ID). If you scan your face while wearing eyeglasses, you’ll be instructed to remove them for a second Face ID scan—don’t worry, it’ll still recognize you with your glasses on. Then, tap Done and you’re all set. 

Speaking of eyeglasses, you can add up to four different pairs. That way, if you have a tendency to switch between different glasses, Face ID will still successfully work while you’re wearing a mask. To add new eyeglasses:

  1. Open Face ID & Passcode
  2. Tap on Face ID with a Mask
  3. Select Add Glasses

Follow the instructions to scan your face while wearing the glasses you want to add. Then, tap Done and the pair will automatically be saved. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t support sunglasses because the iPhone needs to capture the area around your eyes for authentication, which isn’t possible with your favorite shades.

Unlocking Your iPhone With a Face Mask

Face ID with a Mask works the same way as standard Face ID. Whether you’re unlocking your iPhone, authorizing an Apple Pay purchase, or downloading and signing in to apps, all you need to do is look directly at the selfie camera on your iPhone. It works well most of the time, though there are instances when it can struggle, just like normal Face ID.

You Can Also Use an Apple Watch

Don’t own an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13? There’s still hope if you own an Apple Watch. Prior to introducing Face ID with a Mask, Apple offered the option to unlock your iPhone using an Apple Watch (running iOS 14.5 or later and WatchOS 7 or later). It works with the iPhone 6S and later, along with the Apple Watch Series 3 and up. Here’s how to enable it:

  1. Open Settings and tap on Face ID & Passcode
  2. Scroll down to Unlock With Apple Watch and toggle it on
  3. Tap Turn On when you receive the pop-up

For the feature to work, you’ll have to set up a passcode on the Apple Watch:

  1. Go to the Apple Watch Settings app and tap on Passcode
  2. Turn Passcode on and type in your preferred code
  3. Toggle on Wrist Detection (if it’s not already turned on)

When your Apple Watch is unlocked, you can glance at your iPhone with a mask on and the smartwatch will unlock it. You’ll receive a notification on your watch that the iPhone has been unlocked, with the option to lock it again. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t work with Apple Pay, or when signing in to apps. It’s purely a convenience for unlocking your phone. 

Neither of these features should be an excuse to upgrade your iPhone (unless you really need to) or shell out for a pricey Apple Watch. You could always snag the new iPhone SE instead—good ol’ Touch ID makes it dead simple to unlock or authenticate, masked up or not.

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