Apple is reportedly testing iPhone 13 Face ID tech that works with masks

How to use Face ID on the iPhone X
How to use Face ID on the iPhone X (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple is reportedly testing new iPhone 13 Face ID technology via iPhone 12 attachments.
  • The prototypes Apple is testing are designed to work with face masks and "foggy glasses."
  • It's thought the technology in the prototype attachments is the same that will be part of iPhone 13.

Apple is reportedly testing new Face ID technology that works with face masks and "foggy glasses." What's more, the technology appears to be the same Face ID configuration that will be part of the upcoming iPhone 13 lineup.

According to a Front Page Tech report, Apple is testing the new iPhone 13 Face ID array via attachments that connect to existing iPhone 12 hardware. The move is thought to prevent the need to give real iPhone 13 handsets to people, allowing for a wider testbed.

The new Face ID array is thought to be designed with face masks in mind, allowing users to unlock their iPhones even when they are wearing a mask. That's a huge deal in an ever-changing COVID-19 situation, and it's thought that the technology is set for its debut in iPhone 13.

Face Id Prototype Attachment

Face Id Prototype Attachment (Image credit: Front Page Tech)

Internally, for testing purposes only, Apple has developed a prototype case that fits around iPhone 12 that they are using to test a new Face ID array. The case fits snug around the phone, with a very visible extra sensor array sitting above the device. This prototype case allows the iPhone 12 to bypass the regular Face ID array, in favor of using the new hardware within the case.

The report goes on to note that the dimensions of the Face ID array in the attachments appear to match the array that is expected to be part of the iPhone 13 lineup, redesigned notch and all.

From what we've seen, the Face ID array inside the prototype case is narrower than the array typically found inside the iPhone 12, with the camera of the prototype being on the left side. This allows us to further speculate that the array inside the prototype is that of the iPhone 13.

That's a point that appears to be backed up by leaker @Jioriku, although they also appear to suggest that a future software update could be needed for the feature to become available.

Images shared by Front Page Tech show renders of what the iPhone 12 attachments look liken and it's clear the array is indeed smaller than that of the iPhone 12 models.

Apple is expected to announce the new iPhone lineup within the next few weeks and some form of face mask-defeating Face ID could be a real crowd-pleaser — even if a future software update is required to enable it. It's no exaggeration that such a move would make it the best iPhone feature of the year for many people.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.