One incredibly handy feature on your iPhone is the ability to unlock it using just your Apple Watch, instead of typing in your password. Of course, this doesn't always work 100% of the time, but when it does, it's pretty amazing. While we have Face ID on most iPhone models these days, there are times when our faces get covered up and it's hard for the TrueDepth camera sensors to detect our face. This is especially true since the pandemic, which calls for wearing a face mask in certain places.
Apple added a feature in iOS 14.5 and later that lets you unlock your iPhone when Face ID just isn't an option. That's right — you can use your favorite Apple Watch, such as the Apple Watch Series 7, to unlock your iPhone when your face is covered up, or other situations where Face ID just doesn't work well enough.
Here's how to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch. And if you want this on your best Mac too, make sure to check out our guide on how to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac and Apple Watch.
How to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch
While the iPhone 13 series might be some of the best iPhones to date, in this time when many of us are still wearing masks, the Face ID biometric system has often proven more of a hindrance than a help. Apple has introduced "Unlock with Apple Watch." The feature lets your Apple Watch automatically unlock your iPhone when certain conditions are met, including:
- Face ID on your iPhone detects that you are wearing a mask
- Your Apple Watch is nearby, on your wrist, unlocked, and has a passcode enabled
To use the new feature, you must have iOS 14.5 or later installed on your iPhone and watchOS 7.4 or later installed on your Apple Watch.
To get started:
- Tap the Settings app on your iPhone.
- Scroll down, choose Face ID & Passcode.
- Login with your passcode.
- Scroll down, toggle on Apple Watch under the Unlock with Apple Watch section.
That's it! You can now unlock your iPhone using your Apple Watch when certain conditions are met.
Unlock your iPhone with a flick of the wrist
Even if you aren't wearing a face mask, Unlock with Apple Watch is still very handy. For example, it has been a lifesaver when I'm holding a baby in my arms but still need to get to my phone for something important. And if you unlocked it unintentionally, you can lock your iPhone again right from your Apple Watch too. How convenient!
Of course, the feature to unlock your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask has been released through the latest iOS 15.4 update as well, but if you don't prefer that, this is a handy tool.
Updated April 2022: Updated for the public release for the feature.
Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.
Does this feature apply to iPad OS as well?
It's currently not available in the iPadOS 14.5 beta.
Thanks very much, Bryan.
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