There was big news yesterday when Apple released the first iOS 14.5 beta to developers and we discovered a new feature related to unlocking iPhones while wearing masks. As we now know, iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 will allow users to have their Apple Watch unlock their iPhone for them without having to enter a passcode or authenticate via Face ID. That's a huge deal at a time where we're all wearing face masks. But is it bad news for our hopes of the return of Touch ID?
We've heard plenty of reports recently that claim Apple is working on putting Touch ID back into the iPhone via an under-screen sensor. It's something the likes of Samsung have been doing for a couple of years now and Apple following suit was thought to be more likely than ever thanks to the mask situation. But if Apple thinks it's fixed the problem with iOS 14.5, does that mean it won't push to bring Touch ID back to iPhone?
Possibly. Maybe. But hopefully, no.
While it's true that the iOS 14.5 solution does work well in my testing, especially considering it's the first beta, it's less than ideal. For starters, it'll only work for those people who wear Apple Watches and while that number is growing, it isn't large enough to call iOS 14.5 a viable fix for the masses. To fix the mask problem properly, we need Touch ID to come back. Sure, Apple could make Face ID less sensitive to having the lower part of your face covered up – but the requirement to see your nose and mouth is what makes Touch ID so secure in the first place.
Ultimately, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the iOS 14.5 situation is just a stopgap and that Touch ID is more a matter of when than if. But I also hope that Face ID sticks around as well – why settle for one when we can have both?
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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.