The first developer betas of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 were released today by Apple, bringing a big improvement to the integration between the iPhone and Apple Watch. You can now use your Apple Watch for the first time when you wear a face mask to unlock your iPhone. Here’s how things work.
Right off the bat, there are very few things worth mentioning. First and foremost, the new iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 developer betas are needed for this. There is no public beta available as of right now, but we expect one to be published as soon as this week. Then, we expect iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 to be published sometime in the next few months to the general public.
Unlock your iPhone with Apple Watch
Open the Settings app on your iPhone to allow the Unlock with Apple Watch feature, then look for the ‘Face ID & Passcode’ setting. Your Apple Watch will be able to authenticate your iPhone as long as the following conditions are met once you flip this toggle:
- Face ID recognizes a mask
- Nearby is your Apple Watch
- There’s your Apple Watch on your wrist
- Unlocked is your Apple Watch
- The passcode is enabled on your Apple Watch
Another thing to bear in mind here is that if you disable the wrist detection feature of the Apple Watch, your Apple Watch will not allow you to unlock your iPhone.
Once you activate the feature, the next time you wear a face mask, your iPhone will automatically unlock with your Apple Watch. You will get a haptic feedback notification on your Apple Watch when your iPhone unlocks, telling you that the Apple Watch has activated your iPhone. There is also the option directly from the Apple Watch notification to quickly “Lock iPhone”.
The functionality is close to how the Apple Watch unlock feature works on the Mac, but in my early tests, it appears to be both quicker and more accurate. The Apple Watch can be used on the Mac for a variety of different authentication activities, including accessing Device Preferences controls, making transactions from Apple Pay, and more.
On the iPhone, unlocking the Apple Watch is limited to unlocking your iPhone when wearing your mask. It doesn’t work for items like Apple Pay, credit card auto-fill in Safari, or accessing Apple Card functionality in the Wallet app if your iPhone can’t detect if you’re wearing a mask, and it doesn’t work. In those cases, if you’re wearing a mask, you would always have to enter your passcode.
A significant security move is the “Lock iPhone” button as it enables you to re-lock your iPhone if someone else wearing a face mask were to unlock it.
Ultimately, what’s crucial to bear in mind here is that the Apple Watch Unlock feature isn’t as safe as Face or passcode unlocking, but it’s far more convenient.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, support for unlocking your iPhone with your Apple Watch while wearing a mask is a big improvement considering its limitations. What are you thinking about the feature? Let us know in the comments below!