Apple introduced a feature that is designed to allow users who are wearing masks to unlock their iPhones with a paired and authenticated Apple Watch, alleviating the need to continually enter a passcode constantly. This is after the launch of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4.

Apple's Latest Feature

Apple has published a support document detailing how the new feature works and the requirements that enable it to function.

Apple says that the Apple Watch unlocking process is not using Face ID in order to recognize and authenticate the user, so the same facial scan that allows Face ID to unlock the user's phone is not happening here.

There are numerous specific set of requirements that allow that Apple Watch to authenticate the user's identify for unlocking an iPhone.

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Users will need an iPhone X or later with iOS 14.5 or later and an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with watchOS 7.4 or later, which must be paired together.

Both WIFI and Bluetooth need to be activated for communication between the Apple Watch and the iPhone, and the Apple Watch needs to have a passcode and wrist detection must first be enabled.

Using iPhone to Unlock Apple Watch

Unlock with Apple Watch needs to be expressly turned on for it to function, and users can find the feature in Settings, then click on Face ID & Passcode.

For the Apple Watch to authenticate the identify of the user, the watch will first need to be on the user's wrist and it should be unlocked. The user needs to be wearing a mask that covers both the mouth and the nose, presumably to signal to the iPhone to use the secondary unlocking method instead of the Face ID.

To unlock the iPhone with the Apple Watch, users will need to wake their iPhone by raising it or tapping the screen, and then glance at it to unlock, according to MacRumors.

The requirement to glance at the iPhone is meant to prevent the feature from working when users are not close by their iPhone, and though not mentioned by Apple, there definitely seems to also be a proximity requirement because it will tell the user if they are not close enough to their phone.

This is a feature that can allow someone else that is not the user to unlock the iPhone with the user's permission, have the user's iPhone, and are wearing a mask with the nose and mouth covered, so enabling it should be done with caution if other people have access to the device and the user is worried about security.

It is also worth noting that Unlock the Apple Watch only works for unlocking the iPhone. It does not verify identity for use with Apple Pay, passwords in Keychain, or password-protected apps, which will require either a passcode or Face ID.

Even though it is not as secure as Face ID, Unlock the Apple Watch is a convenient option for those who are tired of having to enter a passcode on their devices while wearing a face mask.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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